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What happens at a convergent boundary?

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Quick Answer

When tectonic plates collide and form a convergent boundary, their interaction can produce earthquakes, volcanic activity, underwater trenches and mountain formations. Any resulting geologic events on the Earth's surface are determined by the type of tectonic plates involved in the collision: oceanic crust, continental crust or a combination of both.

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Full Answer

The Earth's outer shell, or lithosphere, is formed from several hard tectonic plates that drift over currents of molten rock. Plates boundaries are the contact points where two tectonic plates interact, such as crashing together or spreading part. Plates covered by continental crust, or landmasses, are buoyant, while plates covered with oceanic crust are extremely dense.

An oceanic-continental collision can produce trenches and volcanic mountains during a process known as subduction. Since oceanic crust is dense, the plate edge sinks beneath the continental crust and melts in the Earth's magma layer, which is known as the asthenosphere. An oceanic trench is formed at the deep impression where the two plates meet. In some cases, the submerged oceanic crust causes a buildup and release of high-pressure magma, which pushes above the surface to shape mountains.

The convergence of two continental plates typically causes the edge of one plate to be wedged under the other. The buoyancy of continental crust prevents either plate from sinking, so bulky sections of rock are shoved upward to form mountains. In a convergence of two oceanic crusts, the older plate has a higher density and sinks beneath the younger plate. This type of collision also produces subduction, causing the formation of volcanic islands.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    How do I define "convergent boundaries"?

    A:

    Convergent boundaries are defined as locations where tectonic plates collide with each other. The melting lithospheric material produces volcanoes, and the motion of the tectonic plates along the convergent boundaries leads to earthquakes.

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  • Q:

    What is a divergent boundary?

    A:

    A divergent boundary is a place where the earth's tectonic plates move away from one another. Divergent boundaries occur beneath both thick continental plates and oceanic lithosphere.

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  • Q:

    What type of plate boundary does Krakatoa have?

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    Krakatoa is a volcano in Indonesia that lies at the convergent boundary between the Eurasian and Indo-Australian tectonic plates. It was formed sometime within the past million years, when the two plates collided and the Indo-Australian plate began sliding under the Eurasian plate. The volcano is famous for its major eruption in 1883, which killed 36,000 people and was one of the deadliest eruptions in human history.

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  • Q:

    What are some examples of convergent boundaries?

    A:

    A convergent plate boundary occurs when a collision of tectonic plates causes one plate to slide over the top of another. There are three examples of convergent plate boundaries that occur as the result of continental and oceanic plate convergence:

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