Plate tectonics around the Pacific Ocean

Plate boundaries are commonly expressed as landforms on the sea floor or continental margins. For example, the Mariana Trench (the deepest location on the world's sea floor) is located where the Pacific Plate is being subducted under the Philippine Plate. The Himalayas formed where the Indo-Australian and Eurasian Plates collided. This collision between two large plates of lighter lithosphere has resulted in this mammoth mountain range, home of the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest, which towers over 5 miles above sea level. "The Ring of Fire" describes the margins of the Pacific Plate, which is ringed by volcanoes and experiences frequent catastrophic earthquakes, from New Zealand to Indonesia to Japan and Russia's Kamchatka, through Alaska's southern fringe along the entire western coast of the Americas. Plate Tectonics could be considered one of the most important theories within our lifetimes, in that it explains the distribution of all major mountain ranges, why earthquakes and volcanoes occur, where they occur, and how continents drift long distances over the course of millions of years.

Credit: Dylan Prentiss, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara

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