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Earthquakes at Transform Plate Boundaries

There are large, shallow focus earthquakes at transform plate boundaries; the San Andreas Fault Zone is the best known.

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Practice Earthquakes at Transform Plate Boundaries
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Stuck Zipper
Teacher Contributed

Stuck Zipper

Why It Matters

Have you ever had a zipper get stuck before on your back pack?

You pull and pull on the zipper but it just won’t move. Finally, with one final tug, the zipper frees itself from its obstacle and comes zooming up!

Stress along fault lines can behave a lot like a stuck zipper. Here is a simulation that the U.S.G.S. has created to show this happening along the San Andreas Fault line during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake:


How are zippers similar to fault lines at plate boundaries? Instead of us tugging at our zipper, what is tugging on the fault line?

Explore More

  1. The San Andreas Fault line has a long history of getting stuck and then slipping. http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/earthq3/move.html What type of stress is being experienced along this fault line? What type of fault line is the San Andreas Fault in California?
  2. The San Andreas Fault represents the transform plate boundary between the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate. Here is a map of California with the San Andreas Fault plotted: http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/earthq3/where.html Make a prediction of what the shape of California will look like in the future. Trace the shape of California (by hand or digitally) and create a flip book showing the motion along the San Andreas Fault.

Resources Cited

United States Geological Survey. http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/earthq3/move.html



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