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SAINT THOMAS PRODUCTIONS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SAINT THOMAS PRODUCTIONS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Animation of a cutaway of a subduction zone, showing how the subduction of an oceanic plate below a continental plate causes volcanism inland. Earth's surface is made up of large tectonic plates, some formed of dense oceanic crust and others bearing less dense continental crust. When two of these plates meet, the denser oceanic crust is subducted, and moves underneath the continental plate and descends into the underlying mantle. As it descends it heats up, boiling off volatile compounds including water. The water reduces the melting point of the mantle rocks, which melt to form magma, which rises through the overlying rock to emerge as a volcano. Subduction zones typically feature arcs of volcanoes inland from the zone.
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