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Transform Boundaries

Imagine you are playing soccer with a friend, and you both are facing each other with soccer balls. You both kick the balls at the same time. Instead of the balls hitting, they miss each other and continue rolling away from one another.
Kids playing soccer in a field

Transform Boundaries are similar to you playing soccer with a friend.

This is similar to the final plate boundary, transform boundaries. Except instead of soccer balls they are tectonic plates. These plates pass each other horizontally, creating what is called a “fault zone”. Of course, we don’t do the kicking. Plates are made out of hard rock. That would hurt a lot! The plates move because of continental drift.

How does it happen?

The passing is much bumpier than two soccer balls gliding past each other. When the two plates come together, they are stuck together due to friction. The plates will gather so much energy that they release one another. Then they continue passing each other. Have you ever experienced an earthquake? If so, the sudden shake you felt was caused by the plates being released from one another. It’s so powerful that it can liquify the ground, toppling buildings! Scientists are always watching transform boundaries to avoid this terrible damage.

Where does it happen?

Many of these transform boundaries are found in oceanic crust. Here, the boundary interferes with ridges which are always spreading apart. We call these spreading centers divergent boundaries.’ At transform boundaries, plates usually pass each other in a straight line. But, interference with ridges causes them to move in a ‘zig-zag’ motion.
A diagram of a transform boundary in water.

This is an example of a transform boundary in water.

Transform boundaries also occur on land. One of the most famous examples is California’s San Andreas fault. This brings the East Pacific Rise and the Juan de Fuca Plate together. This fault is 300 miles long. If you wanted to walk the entire fault, it would take you about 15 days!
Sign for the San Andreas Fault Line

The San Andreas fault is one of the most famous transform boundaries in the world.

For more information, watch this helpful video.

Other Great Resources:

Another Description of Transform Boundaries: http://www.kids-fun-science.com/transform-boundary.html
Written by: Lindley Lund.