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PLATES on the MOVE GAME

Play this game to explore how plates affect our planet. 
1. Click on an orange marker to explore a place on the map. 
2. Examine how tectonic plates are moving there. 
3. Answer the question and read more about it! 

map of the earth with tectonic plates outlined in yellow

Mount Everest

HIMALAYAS, NEPAL AND TIBET

Sets of arrows coming from the Indian an Eurasian plate meet at the plate boundary.

Which tectonic plate interaction caused Mount Everest?

2 arrows parallel to each other but pointing in opposite directions

slip

2 arrows pointing at each other

collision

2 arrows pointing away from each other

spreading 

one arrow sinking below the other arrow coming towards it

subduction

Nope. Try again!
animation showing collision of tectonic plates and forming mountains
You got it!

ANSWER: collision

COLLISION CAUSED MOUNT EVEREST!
If two continental plates crash into each other, they’ll crumple and fold. The crust is forced up, mountains form, and earthquakes happen.

About Mount Everest

Aerial image of Mount Everest

Mount Everest as seen from the air.

 

The tallest mountain in the world is still growing. The peak of Mount Everest is rising about one centimeter (about half an inch) each year. In fact, all the mountains along the Himalayas are still growing.

This massive mountain chain began forming about 60 million years ago as the Indian Plate crashed into the Eurasian plate. Both plates are made of continental crust and share a similar thickness and weight. So the two plates began to crumple and push up. The collision is what formed the jagged peaks of the Himalayas. 

The Indian Plate is still moving. It is colliding with the Eurasian Plate at a speed of 5 centimeters (2 inches) per year. As long as the two plates collide, the Himalayas will continue to rise.

Mountain building is not the only tectonic activity in the area. The constant pressure between the two plates also causes some of the world’s most powerful earthquakes.

STATS

Event: Mountain formation

Date: About 60 million years ago to the present

Size: The mountain chain is more than 2,400 kilometers (1,500 miles) long, with mountains over 6,000 meters (20,000 feet, nearly 4 miles) tall

Motion: Collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates

Place: Southeast Asia, along the border between India and Tibet

Mount Fuji

JAPAN

Two arrows, belonging to the Philippine Plate and the Pacific plate move north-east towards the Eurasian Plate.

Which tectonic plate interaction caused Mount Fuji?

2 arrows parallel to each other but pointing in opposite directions

slip

2 arrows pointing at each other

collision

2 arrows pointing away from each other

spreading

one arrow sinking below the other arrow coming towards it

subduction

Nope. Try again!
animation of one plate subjecting below another
You got it!

ANSWER: subduction

SUBDUCTION CAUSED MOUNT FUJI!
Often a heavy oceanic plate collides with a lighter continental plate and the oceanic plate sinks into the mantle. Here, earthquakes occur and molten magma forms and rises to Earth's surface to cause an explosive volcanic eruption.

About Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji seen from afar

This volcano has been sleeping for centuries, but it could erupt again at any time. Mount Fuji lies just 97 kilometers (60 miles) from the city of Tokyo. It is Japan's tallest mountain. It is visible for hundreds of miles around! 

Volcanic eruptions started forming this massive mountain about 11,000 years ago. The last explosion was 300 years ago. It formed a large, deep crater in the cone-shaped mountain. The explosion sent ash all the way to Tokyo. Today, steam rises from its peak and earthquakes occur within it. So scientists know that it could erupt again.

Mount Fuji is just one of 83 active volcanoes in Japan. In fact, the islands of Japan were formed by volcanic activity. They make up part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, chains of volcanoes that surround the Pacific Plate.

Japan also has more earthquakes than almost any other place in the world. Many of these earthquakes cause tsunamis. "Tsunami" is the Japanese word for giant tidal waves.

The Mount Fuji volcano remains active, but with no signs that it will erupt again soon. 

STATS

Event: Volcanic eruption

Date: Last eruption was on December 16, 1707

Place: Honshu, Japan's main island

Size: 3,776 meters (over 2 miles) high; 50 kilometers (31 miles) across

Motion: Subduction of the Pacific and Philippine plates under the Eurasian Plate

Krakatau Eruption, 1883

INDONESIA

Krakatau, Indonesia

Which tectonic plate interaction caused the Krakatau volcanic eruption?

2 arrows parallel to each other but pointing in opposite directions

slip

2 arrows pointing at each other

collision

2 arrows pointing away from each other

spreading

one arrow sinking below the other arrow coming towards it

subduction

Nope. Try again!
animation of one plate subjecting below another
You got it!

ANSWER: subduction

SUBDUCTION CAUSED THE KRAKATAU VOLCANIC ERUPTION!
Often a heavy oceanic plate collides with a lighter continental plate and the oceanic plate sinks into the mantle. Here, earthquakes occur and molten magma forms and rises to Earth’s surface to cause an explosive volcanic eruption.

About Krakatau

krakatau

Imagine a volcanic eruption that could be felt across an ocean. This happened on Krakatau, a volcanic island of Indonesia.

The Krakatau volcano exploded over 100 years ago, yet it’s still one of the largest eruptions ever witnessed. It was so powerful it caused the volcano to collapse. The volcanic island was replaced by a deep underwater crater, or caldera.

The eruption set off devastating tsunamis, giant tidal waves that swept the coastlines of the Java and Sumatra Islands. The sound of the explosion was heard across the Indian Ocean. Magma was ejected as far as 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. The dust reached so high in the atmosphere that it created strange blue-green sunsets for months.

Krakatau was quiet for about 44 years. Then, starting in 1927 small eruptions began again. These small but frequent eruptions are slowly building a new island called Anak Krakatau (“child of Krakatau”).

STATS

Event: Volcanic eruption

Date: August 26-27, 1883

Place: Krakatau, an island of Indonesia (Southeast Asia)

Motion: Subduction of the Australia-India Plate under the Eurasian Plate

Mount Kilimanjaro

TANZANIA

Animation showing two plaques moving apart in West Africa, near the Indian Ocean.

Which tectonic plate interaction caused Mount Kilimanjaro?

2 arrows parallel to each other but pointing in opposite directions

slip

2 arrows pointing at each other

collision 

2 arrows pointing away from each other

spreading

one arrow sinking below the other arrow coming towards it

subduction

Nope. Try again!
animation showing magma rising along ridge of 2 tectonic plates and causing plates to move apart from each other
You got it!

ANSWER: spreading

SPREADING CAUSED MOUNT KILIMANJARO
As two plates slowly move apart, earthquakes occur, and magma rises up from the mantle below. The magma erupts from volcanoes that from between the plates and cools to form new crust.

About Mount Kilimanjaro

kilimanjaro

The tallest mountain in Africa is actually a sleeping volcano. Most volcanoes form where tectonic plates meet. But Mount Kilimanjaro, which is in Tanzania, began forming about 750,000 years ago in the middle of the African Plate.

This is a very rare example of continental crust splitting. As the African Plate slowly separates, a deep crack or rift has been forming in Earth. Magma from Earth’s mantle rises and fills in the crack to form new crust.

These events formed a chain of volcanoes and the East African Rift Valley, a wide, green valley that stretches thousands of miles down the eastern part of Africa. 

Mount Kilimanjaro last erupted about 100,000 years ago, but it is dormant. Because steam and sulfur gas are still emitted from its youngest cone, Kibo, scientists believe it may erupt again some day.

STATS

Event: Volcano formation in a rift valley

Date: Began forming 750,000 years ago

Place: Tanzania, easter Africa

Size: 5,895 meters (19,340 feet) above sea level

Motion: Spreading of the African Plate

Izmit Earthquake, 1999

TURKEY

Two arrows represent Anatolian plate and the Eurasian Plate moving pass each other ove a map of Turkey.

Which tectonic plate interaction caused the Izmit earthquake?

2 arrows parallel to each other but pointing in opposite directions

slip

2 arrows pointing at each other

collision

2 arrows pointing away from each other

spreading

one arrow sinking below the other arrow coming towards it

subduction

Nope. Try again!
animation of earthquake at a fault caused by slip of tectonic plates
You got it!

ANSWER: slip

SLIP CAUSED THE IZMIT EARTHQUAKE!
As one plate slides against another, it gets stuck and pressure builds up. When it finally breaks loose, earthquakes happen and the ground trembles and may crack apart.

About the Izmit Earthquake

turkey_earthquake

The small plate that holds Turkey is surrounded by frequent earthquakes. Most of Turkey lies on the Anatolian Plate. To the south, it is being squeezed by two larger plates. To the north, it is sliding against the Eurasian Plate at a speed of 2.4 centimeters (0.9 inches) per year.

A long fault line, called the North Anatolian Fault, stretches across the northern part of the country. Many powerful earthquakes occur along this fault.

One of the strongest earthquakes of the century occurred near the town of Izmit in 1999. Over many miles, fences, walls, roads, and rows of trees were offset, showing that the land had shifted as much as 5 meters (16 feet). The destruction was extensive and immense.

But while thousands of buildings collapsed, some of the oldest mosques remained standing. These mosques hold important clues for constructing buildings that can withstand future earthquakes.

STATS

Event: Earthquake 

Date: August 17,1999

Place: Izmit, Turkey

Magnitude: 7.4 on the Richter Scale

Motion: West-directed slip of the North Anatolian Plate along the Eurasian Plate

The Island of Iceland

ICELAND

North and South American plates move in opposite directions from the Eurasian and African plates at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Which tectonic plate interaction caused the island of Iceland?

2 arrows parallel to each other but pointing in opposite directions

slip 

2 arrows pointing at each other

collision

2 arrows pointing away from each other

spreading

one arrow sinking below the other arrow coming towards it

subduction

Nope. Try again!
animation showing magma rising along ridge of 2 tectonic plates and causing plates to move apart from each other
You got it!

ANSWER: spreading

SPREADING CAUSED THE ISLAND OF ICELAND!
As two plates slowly move apart, earthquakes occur, and magma rises up from the mantle below. The magma erupts from volcanoes that form between the plates and cools to form new crust.

About Iceland

mid_ocean_ridge

The island of Iceland was formed as a result of underwater volcanic eruptions along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is one of the longest volcanic chains in the world, but very few people have ever seen it. That’s because the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is deep underwater, stretching down the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. 

Along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the plates are spreading apart. Between the spreading plates, magma rises up from Earth’s mantle to form volcanoes on the ocean floor. As the magma cools, it hardens to form new crust. 

Although most of the Mid-Atlantic ridge is underwater, Iceland broke above the surface to become an island. This is because Iceland is also growing over a hot spot, an abnormally hot zone in Earth's mantle. The hot spot causes magma to rise up through Earth's crust and form volcanoes that continue to erupt today. The 2010 eruptions of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano caused the most significant disruptions in global air travel since World War II.

STATS

Event: Volcanic island formation

Date: Began to form about 55 million years ago; broke above the ocean surface 16-18 million years ago and is still forming today

Place: Iceland

Size: 64,002 square kilometers (39,769 square miles)

Motion: Spreading of the North American plate and Eurasian plates; hot spot beneath the island of Iceland

Mount Etna

ITALY

An arrow points at African plate going under the shore of Italy

Which tectonic plate interaction caused Mount Etna?

2 arrows parallel to each other but pointing in opposite directions

slip

2 arrows pointing at each other

collision

2 arrows pointing away from each other

spreading

one arrow sinking below the other arrow coming towards it

subduction

Nope. Try again!
animation of one plate subjecting below another
You got it!

ANSWER: subduction

SUBDUCTION CAUSED MOUNT ETNA!
Often a heavy oceanic plate collides with a lighter continental plate and the oceanic plate sinks into the mantle. Here, earthquakes occur and molten magma forms and rises to Earth's surface to cause an explosive volcanic eruption.

About Mount Etna

mt_etna

After 500,000 years, Mount Etna is still going strong. Italy is located in the boundary of two tectonic plates, so it has many active volcanoes. But Mount Etna is unique. It has been erupting more often and longer than most volcanoes in the world. 

Mount Etna has erupted at least 190 times since its first recorded eruption, which was 3,500 years ago. But the volcano is actually much older than that. Layers of lava that are 500,000 years old have been discovered. In fact, these early eruptions were probably underwater!

Today, it still erupts frequently. Sometimes explosive eruptions send magma into the air like fireworks. Other times, lava flows down the mountain. 

Scientists are monitoring Mount Etna closely, recording ash emissions and any earthquakes just below the surface. Based on this evidence, they predict that Mount Etna will continue to erupt. 

STATS 

Event: Volcanic eruption

Date: Currently active

Place: Sicily, Italy

Size: 3,310 kilometers (2,050 miles) high; 50 kilometers (31 miles) across

Motion: Subduction of the African Plate under the Eurasian Plate

Great Chilean Earthquake, 1960

CHILE

Animation showing the Nazca Plate sliding under the South America Plate in Chile

Which tectonic plate interaction caused the Great Chilean earthquake?

2 arrows parallel to each other but pointing in opposite directions

slip

2 arrows pointing at each other

collision 

2 arrows pointing away from each other

spreading

one arrow sinking below the other arrow coming towards it

subduction

Nope. Try again!
animation of one plate subjecting below another
You got it!

ANSWER: subduction

SUBDUCTION CAUSED THE GREAT CHILEN EARTHQUAKE!
Often a heavy oceanic plate collides with a lighter continental plate and the oceanic plate sinks into the mantle. Here, earthquakes occur and molten magma forms and rises to Earth's surface to cause an explosive volcanic eruption.

About the Great Chilean Earthquake

chile

The largest earthquake on record sparked landslides, a volcanic eruption, and massive tsunamis.

One evening in May 1960, a few strong tremors shook towns along the coast of Chile. About 30 minutes later, the region was hit by the largest earthquake ever recorded. A massive rupture stretching hundreds of miles tore through Earth’s crust. An enormous tsunami swept over the Pacific Ocean.

About 18 hours later, the Puyehue volcano erupted, triggered by all the activity in Earth’s crust. Towns along the west coast of South America were devastated by enormous landslides and the sinking of land.

This incredible destruction was caused by the Nazca Plate moving under the South American Plate. When the plates get jammed, they squeeze together and pressure builds up. Earthquakes occur along this boundary when the stress between the plates is finally released.

The movement of these plates has also formed the Andes, the tallest chain of volcanic mountains.

STATS 

Event: Earthquake

Date: May 22, 1960

Place: Chile, South America

Magnitude: 9.5 on the Richter Scale

Motion: Subduction of the Nazca Plate under the South American Plate

Mount Saint Helens Eruption, 1980

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Arrows show the Juan de Fuca plate going under the North American plate

Which tectonic plate interaction caused the Mount Saint Helens eruption?

2 arrows parallel to each other but pointing in opposite directions

slip

2 arrows pointing at each other

collision

2 arrows pointing away from each other

spreading

one arrow sinking below the other arrow coming towards it

subduction

Nope. Try again!
animation of one plate subjecting below another
You got it!

ANSWER: subduction

SUBDUCTION CAUSED THE MOUNT ST. HELENS VOLCANIC ERUPTION
Often a heavy oceanic plate collides with a lighter continental plate and the oceanic plate sinks into the mantle. Here, earthquakes occur and molten magma forms and rises to the Earth's surface to cause an explosive volcanic eruption.

About Mount Saint Helens

mt_st_helens_01

At 8:30 one Sunday morning, an earthquake shook the Mount Saint Helens volcano. It was not unusual: small earthquakes had been trembling in the area for a couple of months. But this earthquake sparked a large landslide on the steep side of the volcano. Suddenly, the magma held deep inside the volcano was released. Hot gas, ash, and rocks exploded out of the volcano. Trees were flattened. Homes were destroyed.

The worst of the eruption lasted just 10 minutes. When it was over, the volcano’s peak had been replaced by a mile-wide, horseshoe-shaped crater.

The violent eruption was not a surprise. Scientists had noticed rising steam and small eruptions of ash. They also observed a growing bulge on the side of the volcano, caused by rising magma.

Mount Saint Helens is one of 15 volcanoes that form the Cascade Mountain Range along the West Coast of the U.S. The Cascades are a part of the Ring of Fire, a large circle of explosive volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean.

This volcano remains active, but with no signs that it will erupt again soon.

STATS

Event: Volcanic eruption

Date: May 18, 1980

Place: Washington State, U.S.; Cascade Mountain Range

Size: 2,950 meters (9,670 feet) before the 1980 eruption; 2,550 meters (8,360 feet) after the eruption

Motion: Subduction (Juan de Fuca plate under the North American plate)

San Francisco Earthquake, 1906

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Arrows show how the Pacific Plate goes up while the North American Plate goes down.

Which tectonic plate interaction caused the San Francisco earthquake?

2 arrows parallel to each other but pointing in opposite directions

slip

2 arrows pointing at each other

collision

2 arrows pointing away from each other

spreading

one arrow sinking below the other arrow coming towards it

subduction

Nope. Try again!
animation of earthquake at a fault caused by slip of tectonic plates
You got it!

ANSWER: slip

SLIP CAUSED THE SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE! 
As one plate slides against another, it gets stuck and pressure builds up. When it finally breaks loose, earthquakes happen and the ground trembles and may crack apart.

About the San Fancisco Earthquake

san_fran_earthquake_07

One early morning more than 100 years ago, the residents of San Francisco were awakened by a strong tremor. The powerful shaking lasted almost a minute, causing many of the city’s buildings to collapse. Broken gas pipes set off fires that destroyed most of the city.

When it was all over, scientists were amazed to find huge cracks in the ground many miles long. This was one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded in North America.

California has tens of thousands of earthquakes every year because it lies at the boundary of two tectonic plates. These two plates are slowly sliding past each other at a speed of about 5 centimeters (2 inches) every year.

This movement has formed the San Andreas Fault, a zone of deep cracks in Earth’s crust that extends from northern to southern California. Almost all the earthquakes in California occur along the San Andreas Fault.

STATS

Event: Earthquake 

Date: April 18, 1906

Place: San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Magnitude: 7.9 on the Richter Scale

Motion: Northwest-directed slip of the Pacific Plate against the North American Plate

The Hawaiian Islands

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

An arrow moves north-west over Hawaii.

The movement of a tectonic plate over a hotspot caused the Hawaiian Islands!

animation of tectonic plate moving over a hotspot that is creating volcanoes

A hot spot is an intensely hot area in the mantle. Magma rises from the hot spot, forming a volcano at Earth's surface. As the tectonic plate moves over the hot spot, new volcanoes form. 

About the Hawaiian Islands

hawaii_03

Someday, Hawaii will have new islands, and the older ones will disappear into the sea. 

The Hawaiian Islands are actually volcanoes. Most volcanoes form at the edges of tectonic plates. But the Hawaiian Islands are growing over a hot spot, an extremely hot zone in Earth’s mantle. The hot spot causes magma to rise up through Earth’s crust and form a volcano. As the volcanoes grow, they break above the surface of the ocean and become islands. 

The hot spot under Hawaii has pretty much stayed in the same place. As the plate above it moves, the volcanic islands are carried away and new ones form over the hot spot. Over time, the older volcanoes are worn down by wind and water until their peaks sink below the sea.

Currently, the Big Island of Hawaii is over the hot spot. It is the youngest island and made of five volcanoes. But this island is slowly moving away, and a new volcano, Loihi, is already forming underwater. It is just a volcanic baby now, but in only 250,000 years, it, too, will rise above the ocean.  

 

STATS

Event: Volcano and island formation

Date: The Hawaiian Islands began forming 5.5 million years ago

Place: Middle of the Pacific Ocean

Size: The tallest volcano is 17 kilometers (11 miles) high

Motion: Hot spot under the Pacific Plate

1964 Alaska Earthquake

ALASKA, U.S.A.

The Pacific Plate goes under the North American Plate

Which tectonic plate interaction caused the Alaska earthquake?

2 arrows parallel to each other but pointing in opposite directions

slip

2 arrows pointing at each other

collision

2 arrows pointing away from each other

spreading

one arrow sinking below the other arrow coming towards it

subduction

Nope. Try again!
animation of one plate subjecting below another
You got it!

ANSWER: subduction

SUBDUCTION CAUSED THE ALASKA EARTHQUAKE!
Often a heavy oceanic plate collides with a lighter continental plate and the oceanic plate sinks into the mantle. Here, earthquakes occur and molten magma forms and rises to the Earth's surface to cause an explosive volcanic eruption.

About the Alaska Earthquake

alaska_earthquake_08

The destruction from this earthquake was enormous. Hundreds of miles away, in the town of Anchorage, buildings were destroyed by landslides and avalanches. In some places, part of the ground sunk below sea level.

The earthquake also triggered a tidal wave, or tsunami, that swept towns along the coast of Alaska, Canada, and Washington State. Hours later, the tsunami wave reached Hawaii and then South America.

This earthquake was caused by the slow steady push of the Pacific Plate under the North American Plate. This motion is squeezing the crust of southern Alaska, building up pressure. Every now and then, the pressure is released, and the North American Plate suddenly snaps back over the Pacific Plate. This causes an earthquake.

The constant movement and intense strain between these plates cause major earthquakes in Alaska almost every year. In fact, Alaska has more earthquakes than any other state in the U.S.

STATS

Event: Earthquake

Date: March 27, 1964

Place: Prince William Sound, Alaska, U.S.A.

Magnitude: 9.2 on the Richter Scale

Motion: Subduction of the Pacific Plate under the North American Plate

7 major tectonic plate names displaying. From L-R are Pacific, North American, South American, African, Eurasian, Indo-Australian and Antarctic below.

SEE PLATE NAMES

yellow line

= plate boundary

Image Credits:

Earth map, courtesy of NOAA; mountain icon, created by Alice Noir from the Noun Project; Alaska earthquake, courtesy of USGS; Mount St. Helens, courtesy of U.S. Department of Interior; San Francisco earthquake, courtesy of USGS; Hawaii, courtesy of NASA; Mid-Atlantic Ridge, courtesy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Chile earthquake, courtesy of USGS; Mount Etna, courtesy of NASA; Turkey earthquake, courtesy of USGS; Mount Kilimanjaro, courtesy of NASA; Himalayas mountains, courtesy of NASA; Krakatau volcano, courtesy of R.W. Decker, http://www.doubledeckerpress.com; Mount Fuji, courtesy of NASA and AMSR-E