Tectonic Plate Boundaries
This map layer shows the three boundary types (convergent, divergent, and transform) in different colors.
The Earth’s lithosphere is made up of a series of plates that float on the mantle. Scientists think the convection of the mantle causes these plates to move, triggering earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain-building events, or trench formation. These plates creep along at a rate of approximately five to ten centimeters (two to four inches) per year.
These plates move in primarily three main ways. They slide past one another along transform (strike-slip) boundaries, they push against each other at convergent boundaries, or pull away in opposite directions at divergent boundaries. Each one of these interactions creates different types of landforms. For example, the steady pressure of the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate built the Himalaya mountains and the Plateau of Tibet. The divergent boundary between the African Plate and the Arabian Plate formed the Red Sea.
Use this plate boundary map layer to explore how the movement of the plates causes earthquakes, volcanoes, or shapes Earth’s landscape.
Use this Map Layer in the Classroom
Tectonic Plates and Physical Features: In this activity, students will analyze maps of tectonic plates to predict the location of physical features.
transfer of heat by the movement of the heated parts of a liquid or gas.
area where two or more tectonic plates bump into each other. Also called a collision zone.
area where two or more tectonic plates are moving away from each other. Also called an extensional boundary.
the sudden shaking of Earth's crust caused by the release of energy along fault lines or from volcanic activity.
specific natural feature on the Earth's surface.
the geographic features of a region.
outer, solid portion of the Earth. Also called the geosphere.
middle layer of the Earth, made of mostly solid rock.
massive slab of solid rock made up of Earth's lithosphere (crust and upper mantle). Also called lithospheric plate.
site of tectonic plates sliding next to each other in opposite directions. Also called a transform fault.
long, deep depression, either natural or man-made.
an opening in the Earth's crust, through which lava, ash, and gases erupt, and also the cone built by eruptions.