Earth Science

Plate Tectonics

Divergent Plate Boundaries

Study Tip
When two things move apart, they can either slide past each other in opposite directions, or completely break apart heading in opposite directions. Therefore, two ways that plates diverge can be summarized through transform faults and continental rifting.

Divergent Plate Boundaries

Divergent plate boundaries cause similar effects in oceans as they do on land. New seafloor erupts through rift valleys when plates diverge at mid-ocean ridges. The flow of magma at mid-ocean ridges form convection cells, and this movement is very likely to cause earthquakes.

Transform Faults

A transform fault is when one plate slides past another, causing earthquakes on land and divide mid-ocean ridges into segments.

Study Tip
When two things move apart, they can either slide past each other in opposite directions, or completely break apart heading in opposite directions. Therefore, two ways that plates diverge can be summarized through transform faults and continental rifting.
Study Tip
The same way a person may cast a shadow over another person when they stand under the sun, planets or celestial bodies that have aligned themselves cast shadows over one another as well.

Continental Rifting

Divergent plate boundaries on land rip apart continents and create new ocean basins; this is called continental rifting. Magma rises and splits, and new ocean crust erupts through the space left behind. The Atlantic Ocean is a final stage example of continental rifting where a whole ocean now separates the Americas from Europe.

San Andreas  fault in  California
The San Andreas fault in California is an example of a transform fault. Notice how the two plates slide in opposite directions along each other.
Baja California
Baja California is another example
of rifting. The Gulf of California
now separates it from Mexico.
steps of  continental rifting
The main steps of continental rifting
Concept Check
  • What is continental rifting?
  • What do divergent plate boundaries form and what do they cause?
  • What is a transform fault and what does it cause?