Do subducting plates slide smoothly past one another?

Elastic Rebound in a Subduction Zone

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Elastic Rebound in a Subduction Zone

Oblique view of a highly generalized animation of a subduction zone where an oceanic plate is subducting beneath a continental plate. (See sketch below for parts.) This scenario can happen repeatedly on a 100-500 year cycle. The process which produces a mega-thrust earthquake would generate a tsunami, not depicted here.

Quicktime (1.5 MB)

Relative Motion of the Plates in a Subduction Zone Assuming No Friction

Relative motion of the subducting plate assuming no friction between the plates.

Quicktime (488 kB)

Animations and videos are made in partnership with Earthscope, USGS, and Volcano Video & Graphics.

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