Where on Earth Can You Find Collision Zones?

February 15, 2024

Collision zones

One of the basic principles of plate tectonics is that pieces of Earth's rigid outer layer, known as the lithosphere, move across the planet's surface, taking continents with them. Where these plates meet and clash, earthquakes and volcanoes often occur.

Sometimes, at these plate boundaries, an older, denser oceanic plate sinks underneath a younger continental plate. This creates a zone of volcanic activity called a subduction zone. Huge mountains rise at convergent boundaries, such as the Himalayas and the Alps, as the crumpled rock of the lithosphere pushed upward by friction forms towering ranges.

Other times, a continental lithosphere collides with another continental lithosphere at a convergent boundary. Because continental lithosphere is much lighter than oceanic lithosphere, it doesn't easily sink beneath the other plate. Instead, the two masses of continental lithosphere slam together. This forms tall, non-volcanic mountains and a zone of frequent, large earthquakes.

In addition, a feature called a foreland basin develops in collision zones. The basins, like the Persian Gulf, are depressions in the lithosphere formed by the weight of the mountains above them.

Collision zones are the most violent plate boundaries because the two tectonic plates slam into each other, resulting in huge chains of earthquakes and volcanoes. You can find collision zones in many parts of the world, including along the Pacific Ring of Fire. But you can also see them in places where two continental plates converge, such as the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Canada and the U.S., the Rocky Mountains of the Western United States, and the Alps in Europe.

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