Far underneath the ground we walk on, the Earth is covered with tectonic plates. You can think of tectonic plates as puzzle pieces. Earthquakes and volcanoes often happen where the pieces meet.
Point of interest
Can you see the Southern Alps on the map? What is happening to make them a little taller every year?
Far underneath the ground we walk on, the Earth is covered with tectonic plates. You can think of tectonic plates as puzzle pieces. Just like in a jigsaw puzzle, these pieces of the Earth fit snugly together, but they can move or wiggle a bit.
If you look at a world map of tectonic plates, you’ll see New Zealand sits at the edge of two plates. At the edges, where the tectonic plates bump into each other, lots of different events can happen. Mountains – like the Southern Alps – get a little taller every year. There are active volcanoes like White Island or Mt Ruapheu and extinct volcanoes like the 49 different cones around Auckland. Of course, one big result of sitting between two large tectonic puzzle pieces is the thousands of earthquakes that shake our country every year.
Satellite image of South Island, New Zealand, courtesy of NASA
Mt Ruapehu erupting, courtesy of Dougall Gordon
Mt Eden crater, Lloyd Homer, GNS Science