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  Encyclopedia of Keywords > Places > Earth > Lithosphere   Michael Charnine

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  1. The lithosphere is a boundary layer above the convecting upper mantle, influencing convection in a manner that has not yet been well determined or modeled.
  2. Lithosphere: The rigid crust and uppermost mantle of the earth.
  3. The lithosphere is a more fixed, rigid, cooler substance than the hotter, mechanically weaker asthenosphere.
  4. The lithosphere is the rigid outermost layer made of crust and uppermost mantle.
  5. Lithosphere is the "strong" outer part of Earth, about 100-200 km thick.
  6. The lithosphere is the brittle outer layer of the solid Earth.
  7. The lithosphere is the "plate" of the plate tectonic theory.
  8. The lithosphere is the solid outermost shell of a rocky planet.


  1. In the theory of plate tectonics the outermost part of the Earth 's interior is made up of two layers, the outer lithosphere and the inner asthenosphere.
  2. The lithosphere is cooler and more rigid, whilst the asthenosphere is hotter and mechanically weaker.
  3. Students can describe what happens to lithosphere at each of the three plate boundary types (divergent, convergent, transform).
  4. The third boudary is Transform fault boundaries which is when two boundaries grind past each other without the production or detruction of lithosphere.
  5. McGeary and Plummer (1998) say that these findings cast doubt on the original, simple lithosphere-asthenosphere model of plate behavior.

Subduction Zones

  1. It is at subduction zones that the Earth's lithosphere, oceanic crust, sedimentary layers, and trapped water are recycled into the deep mantle.
  2. Excluding subduction zones, earthquakes are limited to (A) the asthenosphere, (B) the Moho, (C) the lithosphere, or (D) granite.

Upper Mantle

  1. Subduction zones mark sites of convective downwelling of the Earth's lithosphere (the crust plus the strong portion of the upper mantle).
  2. The lithosphere is underlain by the asthenosphere, the weaker, hotter, and deeper part of the upper mantle.
  3. Within the crust and upper mantle there is also an inferred mechanical layering distinguishing lithosphere, asthenosphere and mesosphere.

Oceanic Lithosphere

  1. Subduction zones exist at convergent plate boundaries where one plate of oceanic lithosphere converges with another plate and sinks below into the mantle.
  2. Oceanic lithosphere is less dense than asthenosphere for a few tens of millions of years, but after this becomes increasingly denser than asthenosphere.
  3. A subduction zone is a region where the oceanic lithosphere descends into the mantle.

Continental Lithosphere

  1. Most of the other plates consist of both oceanic and continental lithosphere.
  2. Edge effects: thick continental lithosphere insulates the underlying asthenosphere, causing heat buildup that leads to buoyancy.
  3. The tectonic consequences of such lithosphere replacement would include uplift and magmatism, and basin formation during subsequent thermal relaxation.
  4. Young oceanic lithosphere forms at the oceanic ridge system and is consumed at trenches.
  5. Both types of lithosphere can exist within a single plate, for example the North American plate has both continental and oceanic lithosphere.


  1. The key principle of plate tectonics is that the lithosphere exists as separate and distinct tectonic plates, which "float" on the fluid-like asthenosphere.
  2. Below the lithosphere lies the asthenosphere.
  3. Also, the lithosphere loses heat by conduction whereas the asthenosphere also transfers heat by convection and has a nearly adiabatic temperature gradient.
  4. The lithosphere essentially floats on the asthenosphere.
  5. The buoyant asthenosphere moves toward the edge of the cratonic lithosphere, where it can rise and melt (e.g., Anderson, 2005).

Downgoing Plate

  1. Where lithosphere on the downgoing plate is too buoyant to subduct, a collision occurs, hence the adage "Subduction leads to orogeny ".
  2. These form where fluids released from the downgoing plate percolate upwards and interact with cold mantle lithosphere of the forearc.


  1. This bulge is thought to be caused by upward convective forces in the asthenosphere pushing the oceanic crust and lithosphere.
  2. SPOHN, T. & SCHUBERT, G. 1982. Convective thinning of the lithosphere: a mechanism for the initiation of continental rifting.

Subducted Lithosphere

  1. These are earthquakes that occur at a depth at which the subducted lithosphere should no longer be brittle, due to the high temperature and pressure.
  2. Subduction involves the whole lithosphere, the density of which is largely controlled by the nature of the crust it carries.
  3. Seismic tomography has helped outline subducted lithosphere in regions where there are no earthquakes.
  4. The lithosphere is broken up into what are called tectonic plates —in the case of Earth, there are seven major and many minor plates ( see list below).
  5. Hot-spot volcanoes often form long chains that result from the relative motion of the lithosphere plate over the hot-spot source.

Km Thick

  1. Continental lithosphere is stiffer and thicker than oceanic lithosphere -often 100-200 km thick and up to 250 km deep along cratonic keels.
  2. The theory states that the Earth's lithosphere is divided into plates (about 100 km thick) that move around on top of the asthenosphere.

Hot Mantle

  1. It is thought that convection currents in the Earth 's mantle rise to the base of the lithosphere where the divergent plate boundary exists.
  2. The lithosphere contains both crust and some mantle.
  3. As oceanic lithosphere is formed at spreading ridges from hot mantle material it gradually cools and thickens with age (and thus distance from the ridge).
  4. Because it contains thick continental crust, this lithosphere is less dense than the underlying asthenospheric mantle and normal subduction is disrupted.
  5. Where plates collide, the lithosphere on one plate is forced downward into the hot mantle.


  1. The lithosphere (from the Greek, lithos, stone) is the rigid outermost layer made of crust and uppermost mantle.
  2. A given piece of mantle may be part of the lithosphere or the asthenosphere at different times, depending on its temperature, pressure and shear strength.
  3. On the Earth, the lithosphere includes the crust and the uppermost mantle which is joined to the crust across the Mohorovi--i-- discontinuity.
  4. The lithosphere is composed of the crust and the solidified uppermost part of the mantle.
  5. The asthenosphere is a subdivision of the mantle that is below the lithosphere and may be 100 to 700 kilometers below the surface.


  1. The lithosphere beneath passive margins is known as transitional lithosphere.
  2. The accumulation of sediments above the subsiding transitional crust and lithosphere further depresses the transitional crust.


  1. Encyclopedia of Keywords > Places > Earth
  2. Encyclopedia of Keywords > Time > Events > Earthquakes
  3. Encyclopedia of Keywords > Time > Evolution
  4. Encyclopedia of Keywords > Thought
  5. Glossaries > Glossary of Plate Tectonics /
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  Originally created: March 24, 2008.
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