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Convergent Boundaries
Places where plates crash or crunch together are called convergent boundaries. Plates only move a few centimeters each year, so collisions are very slow and last millions of years. Even though plate collisions take a long time, lots of interesting things happen. For example, in the drawing above, an oceanic plate has crashed into a continental plate. Looking at this drawing of two plates colliding is like looking at a single frame in a slow-motion movie of two cars crashing into each other. Just as the front ends of cars fold and bend in a collision, so do the "front ends" of colliding plates. The edge of the continental plate in the drawing has folded into a huge mountain range, while the edge of the oceanic plate has bent downward and dug deep into the Earth. A trench has formed at the bend. All that folding and bending makes rock in both plates break and slip, causing earthquakes. As the edge of the oceanic plate digs into Earth's hot interior, some of the rock in it melts. The melted rock rises up through the continental plate, causing more earthquakes on its way up, and forming volcanic eruptions where it finally reaches the surface. An example of this type of collision is found on the west coast of South America where the oceanic Nazca Plate is crashing into the continent of South America. The crash formed the Andes Mountains, the long string of volcanoes along the mountain crest, and the deep trench off the coast in the Pacific
Ocean.

Are They Dangerous Places to Live?
Mountains, earthquakes, and volcanoes form where plates collide. Millions of people live in and visit the beautiful mountain ranges being built by plate collisions. For example, the Rockies in North America, the Alps in Europe, the Pontic Mountains in Turkey, the Zagros Mountains in Iran, and the Himalayas in central Asia were formed by plate collisions. Each year, thousands of people are killed by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in those mountains. Occasionally, big eruptions or earthquakes kill large numbers of people. In 1883 an eruption of Krakatau volcano in Indonesia killed 37,000 people. In 1983 an eruption-caused mudslide on Nevada del Ruiz in Columbia killed 25,000 people. In 1976, an earthquake in Tangshan, China killed an astounding 750,000 people.

On the other hand, earthquakes and volcanoes occurring in areas where few people live harm no one. If we choose to live near convergent plate boundaries, we can build buildings that can resist earthquakes, and we can evacuate areas around volcanoes when they threaten to erupt. Yes, convergent boundaries are dangerous places to live, but with preparation and watchfulness, the danger can be lessened somewhat.

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Plate Tectonics
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Divergent Boundaries
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Plate Tectonics | Convergent Boundaries | Divergent Boundaries | Transform Boundaries

Diversity | Adaptation | Plate Tectonics | Cycles | Spheres | Biomes | Geologic Time

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