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Earth Structure and Composition

What Happens When Two Plates Meet?

There are usually only a few possibilities when two plates come up against each other. We'll talk about faulting, folding, a dip slip, and a strike slip. All of these events happen when two large pieces of land begin to move. Each type of interaction will give a unique geographical result that helps scientists understand earth movements deep below the surface.


Folding happens when two pieces of a plate come together and push against each other. Take a piece of paper and place it on the table. Now push the ends together. You should see the paper get a big bulge in the middle. That bulge is like the folding that happens on Earth. You get ripples in the surface. Obviously, there will be high and low points. The high points of the ripples are called anticlines. The low points of the ripples are synclines.


Faults in a plate are usually parallel to each other. They run up and down the plate in an area called a fault zone. Many people in the United States think of California when they think of faults. That's because areas with a lot of faults have a lot of earthquakes. In reality, there are faults all over North America, not just in California. Those fault zones may only be a few inches long or they can travel for miles without ending. There are two big types of faults: dip slips and strike slips.

Dip Slips

A dip slip is when two pieces of land change their vertical (up and down) position compared to each other. After the movement, one side is higher than the other side.

Strike Slips

A strike slip happens when two pieces of land move horizontally (side to side) to each other. That movement would be left or right compared to the other piece. We talked about California before. The San Andreas Fault in California is an example of a large strike slip. It is the point where the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate move against each other.

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