Types of Plate Motion

The ways that plates interact depend on their relative motion and whether oceanic or continental crust is at the edge of the lithospheric plate. Plates move away from, toward, or slide past each other. Geologists call these divergent, convergent, and transform plate boundaries.

At a divergent plate boundary lithospheric plates move away from each other. The mid-Atlantic Ridge, a topographically high area near the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is an example of a divergent plate boundary.

At a convergent plate boundary, lithospheric plates move toward each other. The west margin of the South American continent, where the oceanic Nazca Plate is pushed toward and beneath the continental portion of the South American Plate, is an example of a convergent plate boundary.

At a transform plate boundary, plates slide past each other. The San Andreas fault in California is an example of a transform plate boundary, where the Pacific Plate slides past the North American Plate.

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