How Fast Do Tectonic Plates Move?

Tectonic plates move at the rate of about 1 to 2 inches each year. Tectonic plates can move in various directions, causing them to collide at certain points on Earth and pull away at other points.

When tectonic plates move away from each other, or diverge, they cause magma below the surface of the Earth to well up and create new solidified plate surface. Tectonic plates can also move closer to each other, or converge, which often results in mountain systems. Well-known mountain systems were formed through the convergence of nearby tectonic plates.

The sites at the point of converging plates are often marked by frequent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. For example, the area surrounding the Pacific Ocean, especially to the west along Asia's eastern border, is known to experience more frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. However, the eastern border of the Pacific Ocean, along the western borders of North and South America, experiences less frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. This is due to the fact that the Pacific plate is moving in a western direction, toward Asia, at the rate of 1 to 2 inches per year.

Once these plates merge, the direction of the plate movement can shift. Once this shift occurs, the areas on the leading edge of the plate will begin to experience these natural disasters.