If you are looking for a fresh way to illustrate dynamic plate tectonic activity, look no further than this recent National Geographic article about Australia. It describes how the continent has shifted by nearly 5 feet since 1994!
This sort of continental movement has come into sharp focus in recent times as GPS systems become more accurate, with advanced technology now pinpointing locations more precisely.
Australia has tended to move particularly fast due to its unique geology, and corrections have been made to its latitude and longitude four times over the past 50 years. The continent annually shifts around 2.7 inches (6.9 centimeters) northward, combined with a clockwise rotation of the land mass.
With various countries moving at different rates and in different directions due to plate tectonics, our models of the earth soon become out of date – if only by a few inches. As GPS coordinates are calculated based on models of the earth, this system becomes increasingly inaccurate.
Australia’s longitudes and latitudes will be formally adjusted at the end of this year, so that GPS can keep careful track of the country. Over the past 50 years, similar corrections have been made four times. In 1994, Australia’s location was adjusted by 656 feet (200 meters).
Plate tectonics in action!