Here’s everything you need to know about the lithosphere

It is assumed that similar structures also exist on other planets (although with their own characteristics). Yet Earth is the only one we know of in realistic detail. So, for this reason, the rest of this section will be devoted to the Earth’s lithosphere alone.

The lithosphere in relation to the rest of the earth’s structure.

The rocks of the lithosphere are not dense, but they are nevertheless considered elastic. “Elastic” in the geological sense means that the material is able to deform and regain its shape without breaking.

The asthenosphere is viscous, and geologists and rheologists (scientists who study the flow of matter) mark the difference in elasticity between the two layers of the upper mantle at the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary (LAB). The ability of a solid material to stretch or deform under stress is measured by ductility. Compared to the asthenosphere, the lithosphere has much less flexibility.

Oceanic lithosphere and continental lithosphere are the two main different forms of lithosphere. Oceanic lithosphere is slightly denser than continental lithosphere and is connected to oceanic crust.

Tectonic activity is the best-known feature of the Earth’s lithosphere. The interaction of huge plates of lithosphere called tectonic plates is called tectonic activity.

The North American, Caribbean, South American, Nova Scotian, Antarctic, Eurasian, Arabian, African, Indian, Philippine, Australian, Pacific, Juan de Fuca, Cocos, and Nazca tectonic plates are among those that make up the lithosphere.

The majority of tectonic activity occurs where the boundaries of these plates meet, where they may collide, pull apart, or move against each other. Thermal energy (heat) from the mantle component of the lithosphere enables the movement of tectonic plates. Rocks in the lithosphere become more elastic due to thermal energy.

Some of Earth’s most spectacular geological occurrences result from tectonic activity: deep ocean trenches, volcanoes, orogeny (mountain building), earthquakes and volcanoes.

9 Hard Facts About Earth's Lithosphere

Oceanic and continental crust.

The lithosphere can be shaped by tectonic activity: in rift valleys and ocean ridges, where tectonic plates are pulling apart, oceanic and continental lithospheres are thinnest.

The Earth, as conceptualized as a system, comprises a series of so-called spheres, of which the lithosphere is but one. The other spheres are the cryosphere (the frozen regions of the Earth, including both ice and frozen ground), the hydrosphere (the liquid water of the Earth), the atmosphere (the air surrounding our planet) and the biosphere (which includes all life on the planet). These spheres affect a variety of factors, including geography, biodiversity, and ocean salinity.

For example, the pedosphere, formed of earth and soil, is a component of the lithosphere. However, the lithosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere all interact to form the pedosphere.

The enormous movement of a glacier can potentially reduce huge hard boulders of the lithosphere to powder as part of the cryosphere. Lithosphere rocks can erode and weather due to wind (atmosphere) or rain (hydrosphere), respectively. These eroded rocks combine with the organic elements of the biosphere, such as the remains of plants and animals, to form fertile soil or the pedosphere.

9 Hard Facts About Earth's Lithosphere

Exploded view of the Earth.

To influence temperature variations on Earth, the lithosphere also interacts with the atmosphere, hydrosphere and cryosphere. For example, temperatures on high mountains are often much lower than on plains or slopes.

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