This Dynamic Planet - World Map of Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Impact Craters, and Plate Tectonics

Interactive ArcGIS Map

Header Smithsonian Institution U.S. Geological Survey U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Most new crust forms at ocean ridge crests, is carried slowly away by plate movement, and is ultimately recycled deep into the earth—causing earthquakes and volcanism along the boundaries between moving tectonic plates. Oceans are continually opening (e.g., Red Sea, Atlantic) or closing (e.g., Mediterranean). Because continental crust is thicker and less dense than thinner, younger oceanic crust, most does not sink deep enough to be recycled, and remains largely preserved on land. Consequently, most continental bedrock is far older than the oldest oceanic bedrock (see back of map).

The earthquakes and volcanoes that mark plate boundaries are clearly shown on this map, as are craters made by impacts of extraterrestrial objects that punctuate Earth's history, some causing catastrophic ecological changes. Over geologic time, continuing plate movements, together with relentless erosion and redeposition of material, mask or obliterate traces of earlier plate-tectonic or impact processes, making the older chapters of Earth's 4,500-million-year history increasingly difficult to read. The recent activity shown on this map provides only a present-day snapshot of Earth's long history, helping to illustrate how its present surface came to be.

Both the front and back of this map illustrate the enormous recent growth in our knowledge of planet Earth. Yet, much remains unknown, particularly about the processes operating below the ever-shifting plates and the detailed geological history during all but the most recent stage of Earth's development.

Simkin, T., Tilling, R.I., Vogt, P.R., Kirby, S.H., Kimberly, P., and Stewart, D.B., 2006, This dynamic planet: World map of volcanoes, earthquakes, impact craters, and plate tectonics: U.S. Geological Survey Geologic Investigations Series Map I-2800, 1 two-sided sheet, scale 1:30,000,000 (URL:

Back of Map
Canadian Space Agency

This Dynamic Planet is now accessible to a wider public thanks to a collaborative project initiated in 2009 between the authors, the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) that led to the translation of the text on the map to French. The project was supervised by Alain Berinstain, Director for Planetary Exploration at the CSA, and coordinated by Marie-Claude Williamson, research scientist at the GSC (Ottawa), The translation files are accessible from links in the Printable Pages section. For ease of correlation, we suggest that you start with the Back of Map section, then select the panel of interest.

Cette planéte dynamique est désormais accessible à un plus vaste public grâce à un projet collaboratif initié en 2009 entre les auteurs, la Commission géologique du Canada (CGC) et l'Agence spatiale canadienne (ASC) dont le but était de traduire les textes de la carte en français. Le projet fut entrepris sous la direction d'Alain Berinstain, Directeur de la Division d'Exploration planétaire à l'ASC, et coordonné par Marie-Claude Williamson, chercheure scientifique à la CGC (Ottawa). Les fichiers de traduction sont accessibles à partir des liens de la section Printable Pages. Pour faciliter la corrélation entre les textes, nous vous suggérons de débuter à la section Back of Map et de sélectionner le champ d'intêrêt.

Canadian Space Agency

This page contains data that generated the printed and web versions of this map in 2006, not current data. All files are in tab-delimited text format.

Plate boundary data were plotted by Peter Vogt, Steve Kirby, and Paul Kimberly, based on data from DeMets (2002), Bird (2003), and other scientific literature. They are in lat/long ASCII text line files.

The two-sided map sells for $14.00 per copy and can be ordered from the USGS Store Map Locator page. A single $5.00 handling fee is applied to all domestic orders. See the USGS frequently asked questions page for information about international or group discounts. For more information call 1-888-ASK-USGS.


For sale by U.S. Geological Survey, Information Services, Box 25286, Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225; telephone 1-888-ASK-USGS; new product number, 206335.


Visitors to the National Museum of Natural History, 10th and Constitution, NW, in Washington, DC, may purchase maps from the gift shop at $15 (no shipping and handling).

Tom Simkin Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC, 20560
Robert I. Tilling U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California, 94025
Peter R. Vogt Naval Research Laboratory, Marine Physics Branch, Washington, DC, 20375 (presently affiliated with Marine Science Inst., Univ. of Calif. Santa Barbara; Smithsonian Institution; and Horn Point Environmental Lab)
Stephen H. Kirby U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California, 94025
Paul Kimberly Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC, 20560
David B. Stewart U.S. Geological Survey, National Center, Reston, Virginia, 20192

Cartography and Graphic Design
Will R. Stettner U.S. Geological Survey, National Center, Reston, Virginia, 20192
With contributions by
Antonio Villaseñor Institute of Earth Sciences "Jaume Almera," CSIC, Barcelona, Spain
Katharine S. Schindler U.S. Geological Survey, National Center, Reston, Virginia, 20192
Original Webmaster
Paul Kimberly Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC, 20560

Bilham, Roger R G U-Colorado, Geological Sciences SK
Carbotte, Suzanne S M Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, NY PV
DeMets, Chuck D C U-Wisconsin, Geology & Geophysics PV
Engdahl, Bob E R U-Colorado, Geological Sciences SK
Hasse, Jon J National Ice Center, NAVICECEN, AT-Geospatial Information PK
Holzer, Missy M Chatham High School, Monmouth Schools, NJ all
Jung, Woo-Yeol W-Y Naval Research Lab, Marine Physics Branch PV PK TS
Keith, John J R USGS-Reston, VA all
Robinson, Joel J E USGS-Menlo Park, CA RT PK
Rymer, Mike M J USGS-Menlo Park, CA SK
Schilling, Steve S P USGS-Cascades Volcano Observatory, WA PK
Scholl, Dave D W USGS-Menlo Park, CA all
Stein, Seth S Northwestern-U, Geological Sciences all
Williamson, Marie-Claude M C Geological Survey of Canada RT PK

Aramaki, Shigeo S Yamanashi Institute of Environmental Sciences, Japan RT
Beddoe, Marc M NAVOCEANO, Bay St Louis, MS PV
Bentley, Charles C R U-Wisconsin, Geology & Geophysics PV
Bhardwaj, Sunil S NASA-Langley Research Center PV
Bird, Peter G P UCLA, Earth & Space Studies SK PV PK
Cande, Steve S C Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Geosciences Res. Div. PV
Collier, Michael M P Flagstaff, AZ RT SK
Cormier, Marie-Helene M-H Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, NY PV
Fornari, Dan D J Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution PV
French, Bevan B M Smithsonian Institution, Paleobiology TS
Gaina,Carmen C U-Sydney, Geosciences PV
Gordon, Leslie L C USGS-Menlo Park, CA RT
Gordon, Richard R G Rice-U, Geology & Geophysics TS
Guffanti, Marianne M C USGS-Reston, VA PK TS
Hall, John J K Geological Survey of Israel PV
Hey, Dick R N U-Hawaii, Geology & Geophysics PV
Hutchinson, Debbie D R USGS-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution PV
Jakobsson, Martin M U-New Hampshire, Earth Sciences PV
James, Odette O B USGS-Reston, VA RT TS
Johnston, Arch A C U-Memphis, Center for Earthquake Research & Information SK
Kleinrock, Marty M C Vanderbilt-U, Geology PV
Larter, Bob R D British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge PV
Livermore, Roy R A British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge PV
Luhr, Jim J F Smithsonian Institution, Mineral Sciences PK TS
Marks, Karen K M NOAA-Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry PV
McCoy, Tim T J Smithsonian Institution, Mineral Sciences TS
Morgan, Jason W J Princeton-U, Geosciences TS
Müller, Dietmar R D U-Sydney, Geosciences PV
Newhall, Chris C G USGS-U-Washington, Seattle TS RT
Okal, Emile E A Northwestern-U, Geological Sciences SK
Plafker, George G USGS-Menlo Park, CA RT SK
Purdey, Bob R W Smithsonian Institution, Paleobiology TS
Rankin, Bill W E NAVOCEANO, Bay St Louis, MS PV
Rona, Peter P A Rutgers-U, Geological Sciences PV
Rossi, Philippe P Commission for Geological Map of World, Paris DS
Scotese, Chris C R U-Texas-Arlington, Geology TS
Shah, Anjana A K Naval Research Lab, Earth Physics Branch PV
Shelton, John J S LaJolla, CA RT
Siebert, Lee L G Smithsonian Institution, Mineral Sciences TS SK
Smith, Walter W H F NOAA-Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry PV
Sorensen, Sorena S S Smithsonian Institution, Mineral Sciences TS
Steinthorsson, Sigurdur S U-Iceland, Geology TS
Taylor, Brian B U-Hawaii, Geology & Geophysics PV
Thatcher, Wayne W R USGS-Menlo Park, CA SK
Thurnau, Ellen E M Smithsonian Institution, Mineral Sciences TS PK
Vigil, Joe J F USGS-Menlo Park, CA RT

Allan, Jamie J F National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA TS
Anderson, Don D L Cal Tech PV
Atwater, Brian B F USGS-U-Washington, Seattle TS
Atwater, Tanya T M U-California-Santa Barbara PV
Batiza, Rodey R National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA PV
Becker, Tammy T USGS-Flagstaff, AZ TS
Brenner, Anita A C NASA-Goddard, MD PV
Casadevall, Tom T J USGS-Denver, CO RT
Christiansen, Bob R L USGS-Menlo Park, California RT
Dorling, Mike M Cambridge-U, Earth Sciences TS
Estabrook, Jim J R USGS-Reston, VA KS
Erwin, Doug D H Smithsonian Institution, Paleobiology TS
Fedo, Chris C M George Washington-U TS
Filson, John J R USGS-Reston, VA TS
Gaddis, Lisa L R USGS-Flagstaff, AZ TS
Geisman, John J W U-New Mexico, Earth & Planetary Sciences PV
Grieve, Richard R A F Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa TS
Hearn, Carter B C USGS-Reston, VA & Smithsonian Institution, Mineral Sciences TS
Horner-Johnson, Ben B Rice-U, Geology & Geophysics TS
Labendeira, Conrad C Smithsonian Institution, Paleobiology TS
MacDonald, Ken K C U-California-Santa Barbara PV
Masonic, Linda L R USGS-Reston, VA DS
McCaffrey, Rob R Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute TS
Morgan, Jason Phipps JP Cornell-U, NY, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences TS
Naar, Dave D F U-South Florida-St Petersburg TS
Newman, Andrew A Los Alamos National Laboratory, EES-9, NM TS
Okino, Kyoko K U-Tokyo, Ocean Research Institute PV
Palmer, Pete A R U-Colorado, Geological Sciences PV
Potts, Rick R Smithsonian Institution, Anthropology TS
Rowley, David D B U-Chicago PV
Rye, Ray R T Smithsonian Institution, Paleobiology TS
Sigurdsson, Sven S U-Iceland, Mathematics TS
Silver, Eli E A U-California-Santa Cruz, Earth Sciences TS
Sinton, John J M U-Hawaii, Geology & Geophysics PV
Sleep, Norm N H Stanford-U, Geological & Environmental Sciences TS
Sylvester, Art A G U-California-Santa Barbara PV
Tamaki, Kensaku K U-Tokyo, Ocean Research Institute PV
Whitehead, James J New Brunswick-U, Canada, Geology TS
Wing, Scott S L Smithsonian Institution, Paleobiology TS
Wu, Francis F T SUNY-Binghamton, Geological Sciences TS

Figueroa, Bonnie B ESRI, Vienna, VA PK
Hasch, Dennis D R Smithsonian Institution, NMNH Information Technology Office PK
Munson, Chris C ESRI, Vienna, VA PK
Oh, Michael M Smithsonian Institution, NMNH Information Technology Office PK
O'Hearn, Tim T J Smithsonian Institution, Mineral Sciences PK
Schenkel, Cory C ESRI, Vienna, VA PK
Venzke, Ed E Smithsonian Institution, Mineral Sciences PK
* Affiliations are those at time of contact, largely 2002-2003, and principal author contact for each helper is identified by initials in column to right.
For continuing support, understanding, and help - through the 5 long years of this project - we owe great thanks to our spouses. We also express our appreciation to the many colleagues, geoscience teachers, and students who provided thoughtful comments and helpful advice on how to improve the previous editions (1989, 1994) of our map.


Most authors were intimately involved in all aspects of the map, but primary responsibilities were:

Layout/design WS
Science authors (& helpers)
Editing KS RT TS
Main Map
Topography AV WS
Volcanoes TS
Earthquakes SK
Impact Craters TS
Divergent boundaries PV PK SK
Convergent boundaries SK PK PV
Plate motion vectors TS PV
Convergence vectors PV
Notable events (see below)
Arctic map PV PK
Antarctic map PV PK
Interpretive map
Fossil boundaries PV
Diffuse boundaries TS
Hotspots PV TS
Topographic extremes PV
Schematic cross-section RT
"About this map" text TS
Divergent boundaries PV
Subduction boundaries SK
Collision boundaries SK
Transform boundaries SK
Hotspots RT
Impact craters TS RT
Notable eruptions TS RT
Notable earthquakes SK TS
Notable impacts TS
Plate tectonics milestones TS PV SK RT
Bedrock age map DS TS PV
Paleogeographic maps RT TS
Timelines TS PK
"More about this map" text TS PV SK RT
References TS
Webmaster PK
Design/content PK TS

Interactive Maps (Main, Arctic, Antarctic)

  • Index Map: Toggle on/off. Shows selected area with respect to full map.
  • Zoom In (default mode): Drag cursor from one corner to another of the desired area or click on the center of the desired area. The map that is returned may not be the same shape. The maximum dimension of your rectangle is retained, and "bonus" area is added to give default square. In order to get a non-square shape, change the size/shape of the browser window before zooming. Some graphics (e.g. Notable numbers) continue to scale when zooming in and appear very large with respect to surrounding data.
  • Zoom Out: Click anywhere on map to zoom out by increments. Zoom out to full size by drawing a small box.
  • Pan (hand): Drag cursor in direction you want map area to shift.
  • Identify: To get data on a specific symbol, select its layer (from list at right margin) then click on symbol of interest. See below for explanation of data. In some cases the pop-up blocker must be disabled in order to view the "identify" results.
  • Get X-Y: Click on point of interest for its decimal latitude and longitude, N and E are positive (+) and S and W are negative (-).
  • Legend/Layers: Toggle to legend (for the best quality, print the main map legend via "printable pages."). To include (or exclude) a layer when constructing a map, check (or uncheck) that layer's box in the "Visible" list then click the "Refresh Map" button (most layers are visible by default). Unfortunately, earthquake depth groups cannot be selected as a layer independent of magnitude.
  • Print/Save: Opens a new window with the option to either print or save the current map view. Printing via the browser's print function has mixed results. On Windows machines you can also print the current view by selecting "Alt - Print Screen" and then pasting into an image processing program.

Other Elements (Front and Back)

  • Click on map or section of interest. To zoom in, select the "+" symbol at the bottom of the page, or click and drag the triangle above the "+" and "-" symbol controls to fine tune. Once zoomed in, navigate by selecting the arrows or dragging cursor. Zoom out by "-" symbol. Some are difficult to read, click on "printable page" for better resolution PDF files. Printable pages are best read with an increased zoom percentage.
  • The "printable page" PDF files are best viewed using Adobe Acrobat 6.0 or later with an optimal screen setting of 1024x768.
  • The Latitude/Longitude grid is 20° intervals when zoomed out beyond 1:20,000,000 and 5° intervals when zoomed in beyond 1:20,000,000. Grids labeled only at full map's margins: use "Get X-Y" tool to identify

"Identify" Data

  • Volcano: Elev = summit elevation above sea level; Lat/Long of volcano center in decimal degrees, N and E are positive (+) and S and W are negative (-); Erupted = last known eruption (see main legend); VNUM = number in Smithsonian data file.
  • Earthquakes: Date (Year, Month, Day); Time = UTC (GMT); Depth = kilometers below sea level; Mag = Magnitude; (see main legend). When selecting desired magnitude layer, beware scale changes of zoomed image — symbol sizes will not equal those shown in legend
  • Impact Craters: Age, in million years (Ma), with uncertainty; (see main legend).
  • Notable Events: 25 numbered events (see table); Red = volcanoes; Black = earthquakes; Purple = impact craters.


  • Divergent boundaries are not shown with line width proportional to spreading rate, as on published map (see legend)
  • Convergent boundaries, shown only on the interpretive map on the published map, are available here as an option. Beware, though, that many of these boundaries are broad, diffuse zones, rather than crisp, sharp junctions.
  • National boundaries, not shown on the published map, are an option here for geographic reference. When selecting this layer, it is a good idea to deselect the "coastlines" layer, to avoid overlapping coastlines.

Downloaded Earthquake Data

  • File sorted by date within individual magnitude ranges.