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Transform Plate Boundaries


Transform Plate Boundaries are locations where two plates slide past one another. The fracture zone that forms a transform plate boundary is known as a transform fault. Most transform faults are found in the ocean basin and connect offsets in the mid-ocean ridges. A smaller number connect mid-ocean ridges and subduction zones.

Transform Plate Boundary

transform plate boundary

A Strike-Slip Fault is NOT a Transform Fault

Transform faults can be distinguished from the typical strike-slip faults because the sense of movement is in the opposite direction (see illustration at right). A strike-slip fault is a simple offset, however, a transform fault is formed between two different plates, each moving away from the spreading center of a divergent plate boundary. When you look at the transform fault diagram above, imagine the double line as a divergent plate boundary and visualize which way the diverging plates would be moving. A smaller number of transform faults cut continental lithosphere. The most famous example of this is the San Andreas Fault Zone of western North America. The San Andreas connects a divergent boundary in the Gulf of California with the Cascadia subduction zone. Another example of a transform boundary on land is the Alpine Fault of New Zealand. Both the San Andreas Fault and the Alpine Fault are shown on our Interactive Plate Tectonics Map.

Transform faults are locations of recurring earthquake activity and faulting. The earthquakes are usually shallow because they occur within and between plates that are not involved in subduction. Volcanic activity is normally not present because the typical magma sources of an upwelling convection current or a melting subducting plate are not present.

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Strike-slip fault vs transform-fault


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