GARY HINCKS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY GARY HINCKS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Subduction, artwork. The Earth's crust is supported by rocky plates (tectonic or lithospheric plates). Subduction occurs when one plate sinks beneath another. This image shows two subduction zones on opposite sides of an ocean. Where the oceanic plate begins to descend, deep ocean trenches are formed. At right, the plate sinks below a less dense continental plate. The heat drives water off, melting the rock above. This magma rises to the surface and erupts from volcanoes or cools to make new crust. At left, the plate sinks below another oceanic plate. The top plate splits and forms new crust (far left) in a region called the back-arc basin.
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