The movement of plate tectonics is pushing North America away from Europe at a rate of one inch (2.54cm) per year. Almost all of North America lies on the North American tectonic plate – with the exception of a thin slice of California – while Europe and the majority of Asia share the Eurasian Tectonic plate. The two plates are moving in opposite directions.

The gap between two tectonic plates is called a fault line. The fault line between North America and Europe runs approximately through the middle of the Atlantic sea, but also splits Iceland in two. Iceland itself was formed as a result of volcanic activity caused by the moving plates. The island is a product of liquid rock breaking through from the mantle to form new land at the surface. The image below shows the fault line clearly visible on Iceland.

Geologists are able to predict the formation of the continents many years ago based on their tectonic movements. About 240 million years ago it is thought that all the continents were joined in a landmass called Pangaea, from which they subsequently split.

At this point, North America would have fit snugly alongside West Africa with New York bordering Morocco and Canada touching Portugal. Here an artist-geologist shows what the continents would have looked like over millions of years in detailed maps.

Images: Unsplash; HeatherMG; John McGarvey/ Flickr

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