If you are lucky enough, or sometimes, unfortunate enough to live where
two plates meet, you've probably had first-hand experience with moving plates!
That's because many potentially catastrophic geologic phenomena, such as
earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis originate at the narrow boundary
zones between plates.
There are three basic things that can happen where the edge
of one plate meets another. The plates can push against
each other, producing a convergent plate boundary,
the plates can move apart, forming a divergent plate boundary,
or the plates can slip past each other side to side, which geologists
call transform plate boundaries. Wherever plates
grind against each other, you can expect earthquakes.
This image shows a slice through the Earth at a convergent
plate boundary. This view illustrates just one of the ways that plates
behave when they collide. In this case, one plate is pulled beneath another
(subduction), forming a deep trench. The long, narrow zone where the two
plates meet is called a subduction zone.
The fate of the colliding plates depends mostly on what type of lithosphere they are made of. Plates with thick, buoyant continental lithosphere behave very differently from plates with thin, dense oceanic lithosphere! Click here to learn more about convergent plate boundaries.