Crust (geology)

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In geology, the crust is the outermost solid shell of a rocky planet or moon, which is chemically distinct from the underlying mantle. The crusts of Earth, our Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Io, and other planetary bodies have been generated largely by igneous processes, and these crusts are richer in incompatible elements than their respective mantles.


Earth's crust and Mantle

The crust of the Earth is composed of a great variety of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. The crust is underlain by the mantle. The upper part of the mantle is composed mostly of peridotite, a rock denser than rocks common in the overlying crust. The boundary between the crust and mantle is conventionally placed at the Mohorovičić discontinuity, a boundary defined by a contrast in seismic velocity. Earth's crust occupies less than 1% of Earth's volume.

The oceanic crust of the sheet is different from its continental crust. The oceanic crust is 5 km (3 mi) to 10 km (6 mi) thick[1] and is composed primarily of basalt, diabase, and gabbro. The continental crust is typically from 30 km (20 mi) to 50 km (30 mi) thick, and is mostly composed of slightly less dense rocks than those of the oceanic crust. Some of these less dense rocks, such as granite, are common in the continental crust but rare to absent in the oceanic crust. Both the continental and oceanic crust "float" on the mantle. Because the continental crust is thicker, it extends both above and below the oceanic crust, much like a large iceberg floating next to smaller one. (The slightly lighter density of felsic continental rock compared to basaltic ocean rock also contributes to the higher relative elevation of the top of the continental crust.) Because the top of the continental crust is above that of the oceanic, water runs off the continents and collects above the oceanic crust. The continental crust and the oceanic crust are sometimes called sial and sima respectively. Due to the change in velocity of seismic waves it is believed that on continents at a certain depth sial becomes close in its physical properties to sima and the dividing line is called The Conrad Discontinuity.

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