How does a deep ocean trench form?


A deep ocean trech is a portion of the Earth's crust in which a tectonic plate is being subducted (pushed down) below another plate. Within this area a trench is formed, and this plate interaction does cause the deepest places on Earth.

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Subduction Ocean
Convergent boundary

In plate tectonics, a convergent boundary, also known as a destructive plate boundary (because of subduction), is an actively deforming region where two (or more) tectonic plates or fragments of lithosphere move toward one another and collide. As a result of pressure, friction, and plate material melting in the mantle, earthquakes and volcanoes are common near convergent boundaries. When two plates move towards one another, they form either a subduction zone or a continental collision. This depends on the nature of the plates involved. In a subduction zone, the subducting plate, which is normally a plate with oceanic crust, moves beneath the other plate, which can be made of either oceanic or continental crust. During collisions between two continental plates, large mountain ranges, such as the Himalayas are formed.

Izu-Bonin-Mariana Arc

The Izu-Bonin-Mariana (IBM) arc system is an outstanding example of a plate tectonic convergent boundary. IBM extends over 2800 km south from Tokyo, Japan, to beyond Guam, and includes the Izu Islands, Bonin Islands, and Mariana Islands; much more of the IBM arc system is submerged below sealevel. The IBM arc system lies along the eastern margin of the Philippine Sea Plate in the Western Pacific Ocean. It is most famous for being the site of the deepest gash in Earth's solid surface, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench.

The IBM arc system formed as a result of subduction of the western Pacific plate. The IBM arc system now subducts mid-Jurassic to Early Cretaceous lithosphere, with younger lithosphere in the north and older lithosphere in the south, including the oldest (~170 million years old, or Ma) oceanic crust. Subduction rates vary from ~2 cm (1 inch) per year in the south to 6 cm (~2.5 inches) in the north.

Plate tectonics

Plate tectonics (from the Late Latin tectonicus, from the Greek: τεκτονικός "pertaining to building") is a scientific theory that describes the large-scale motions of Earth's lithosphere. The model builds on the concepts of continental drift, developed during the first few decades of the 20th century. The geoscientific community accepted the theory after the concepts of seafloor spreading were developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The lithosphere is broken up into tectonic plates. On Earth, there are seven or eight major plates (depending on how they are defined) and many minor plates. Where plates meet, their relative motion determines the type of boundary: convergent, divergent, or transform. Earthquakes, volcanic activity, mountain-building, and oceanic trench formation occur along these plate boundaries. The lateral relative movement of the plates typically varies from zero to 100 mm annually.

The oceanic trenches are hemispheric-scale long but narrow topographic depressions of the sea floor. They are also the deepest parts of the ocean floor. Oceanic trenches are a distinctive morphological feature of convergent plate boundaries.

Along convergent plate boundaries, plates move together at rates that vary from a few mm to over ten cm per year. A trench marks the position at which the flexed, subducting slab begins to descend beneath another lithospheric slab. Trenches are generally parallel to a volcanic island arc, and about 200 km (120 mi) from a volcanic arc. Oceanic trenches typically extend 3 to 4 km (1.9 to 2.5 mi) below the level of the surrounding oceanic floor. The greatest ocean depth to be sounded is in the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench, at a depth of 10,911 m (35,797 ft) below sea level. Oceanic lithosphere moves into trenches at a global rate of about 3 km2/yr.


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