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Divergent boundary

In plate tectonics, a divergent boundary (divergent fault boundary or divergent plate boundary) is a linear feature that exists between two tectonic plates where the plates are moving away from each other. These areas can form in the middle of continents but eventually form ocean basins. Divergent boundaries within continents initially produce rifts which produce rift valleys. If the rifting process stops, a failed rift results. Therefore most active divergent plate boundaries exist between oceanic plates and are often called oceanic rifts as a result.

It is thought that convection currents in the Earth's mantle rise to the base of the lithosphere where the divergent plate boundary exists. This supplies the area with copious amounts of heat and pressure that melts rock from the asthenosphere (or upper mantle) that then travels to the rift area forming large flood basalt flows. Each eruption occurs in only a part of the plate boundary at any one time, but when it does occur, it fills in the opening gap as the two opposing plates move away from each other. The average rate of movement is comparable to how fast human fingernails grow.

Over millions of years the plates grow many hundreds of kilometers away from both sides of the divergent plate boundary. Because of this, rock closest to the boundary is younger than rock further away on the same plate.

Continental crust is often split along divergent plate boundaries.

Divergent boundaries

See also

Last updated: 06-02-2005 13:20:46
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