Continental crust is the layer of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks that forms the continents and the areas of shallow seabed close to their shores, known as continental shelves. This layer is sometimes called sial because its bulk composition is richer in silicates and aluminium minerals and has a lower density compared to the oceanic crust, called sima which is richer in magnesium silicate minerals and is denser. Changes in seismic wave velocities have shown that at a certain depth (the Conrad discontinuity), there is a reasonably sharp contrast between the more felsic upper continental crust and the lower continental crust, which is more mafic in character.
The continental crust consists of various layers, with a bulk composition that is intermediate (SiO2 wt% = 60.6). The average density of continental crust is about 2.83 g/cm3, less dense than the ultramafic material that makes up the mantle, which has a density of around 3.3 g/cm3. Continental crust is also less dense than oceanic crust, whose density is about 2.9 g/cm3. At 25 to 70 km, continental crust is considerably thicker than oceanic crust, which has an average thickness of around 7–10 km. About 40% of Earth's surface area and about 70% of the volume of the Earth's crust is continental crust.
Most continental crust is dry land above sea level. However, 94% of the Zealandia continental crust region is submerged beneath the Pacific Ocean, with New Zealand constituting 93% of the above-water portion.
Because the surface of continental crust mainly lies above sea level, its existence allowed land life to evolve from marine life. Its existence also provides broad expanses of shallow water known as epeiric seas and continental shelves where complex metazoan life could become established during early Paleozoic time, in what is now called the Cambrian explosion.
All continental crust is ultimately derived from mantle-derived melts (mainly basalt) through fractional differentiation of basaltic melt and the assimilation (remelting) of pre-existing continental crust. The relative contributions of these two processes in creating continental crust are debated, but fractional differentiation is thought to play the dominant role. These processes occur primarily at magmatic arcs associated with subduction.
There is little evidence of continental crust prior to 3.5 Ga. About 20% of the continental crust's current volume was formed by 3.0 Ga. There was relatively rapid development on shield areas consisting of continental crust between 3.0 and 2.5 Ga. During this time interval, about 60% of the continental crust's current volume was formed. The remaining 20% has formed during the last 2.5 Ga.
In contrast to the persistence of continental crust, the size, shape, and number of continents are constantly changing through geologic time. Different tracts rift apart, collide and recoalesce as part of a grand supercontinent cycle. There are currently about 7 billion cubic kilometers of continental crust, but this quantity varies because of the nature of the forces involved. The relative permanence of continental crust contrasts with the short life of oceanic crust. Because continental crust is less dense than oceanic crust, when active margins of the two meet in subduction zones, the oceanic crust is typically subducted back into the mantle. Continental crust is rarely subducted (this may occur where continental crustal blocks collide and overthicken, causing deep melting under mountain belts such as the Himalayas or the Alps). For this reason the oldest rocks on Earth are within the cratons or cores of the continents, rather than in repeatedly recycled oceanic crust; the oldest intact crustal fragment is the Acasta Gneiss at 4.01 Ga, whereas the oldest oceanic crust (located on the Pacific Plate offshore of Kamchatka) is from the Jurassic (≈180 Ma). Continental crust and the rock layers that lie on and within it are thus the best archive of Earth's history.
The height of mountain ranges is usually related to the thickness of crust. This results from the isostasy associated with orogeny (mountain formation). The crust is thickened by the compressive forces related to subduction or continental collision. The buoyancy of the crust forces it upwards, the forces of the collisional stress balanced by gravity and erosion. This forms a keel or mountain root beneath the mountain range, which is where the thickest crust is found. The thinnest continental crust is found in rift zones, where the crust is thinned by detachment faulting and eventually severed, replaced by oceanic crust. The edges of continental fragments formed this way (both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, for example) are termed passive margins.
The high temperatures and pressures at depth, often combined with a long history of complex distortion, cause much of the lower continental crust to be metamorphic – the main exception to this being recent igneous intrusions. Igneous rock may also be "underplated" to the underside of the crust, i.e. adding to the crust by forming a layer immediately beneath it.
Continental crust is produced and (far less often) destroyed mostly by plate tectonic processes, especially at convergent plate boundaries. Additionally, continental crustal material is transferred to oceanic crust by sedimentation. New material can be added to the continents by the partial melting of oceanic crust at subduction zones, causing the lighter material to rise as magma, forming volcanoes. Also, material can be accreted horizontally when volcanic island arcs, seamounts or similar structures collide with the side of the continent as a result of plate tectonic movements. Continental crust is also lost through erosion and sediment subduction, tectonic erosion of forearcs, delamination, and deep subduction of continental crust in collision zones. Many theories of crustal growth are controversial, including rates of crustal growth and recycling, whether the lower crust is recycled differently from the upper crust, and over how much of Earth history plate tectonics has operated and so could be the dominant mode of continental crust formation and destruction.
It is a matter of debate whether the amount of continental crust has been increasing, decreasing, or remaining constant over geological time. One model indicates that at prior to 3.7 Ga ago continental crust constituted less than 10% of the present amount. By 3.0 Ga ago the amount was about 25%, and following a period of rapid crustal evolution it was about 60% of the current amount by 2.6 Ga ago. The growth of continental crust appears to have occurred in spurts of increased activity corresponding to five episodes of increased production through geologic time.
The 1997 Manyi earthquake (Chinese: 玛尼地震) occurred on November 8 at 10:02 UTC. The epicenter was in Nagqu Prefecture in northern Tibet, China. The focal mechanism indicates a lift-lateral strike-slip movement. This earthquake had a surface rupture of 17 km (11 mi) long with up to 7 m (23 ft) of left-lateral slip along the Manyi fault, a westward continuation of the Kunlun fault, offset about 100 km (62 mi) to the south. Normally, the continental crust is about 35 km (22 mi) thick, but it reaches 70 km (43 mi) thick under the Tibetan Plateau. This earthquake ruptured up to 20 km (12 mi) of the top part of the local continental crust.Adriatic Plate
The Adriatic or Apulian Plate is a small tectonic plate carrying primarily continental crust that broke away from the African plate along a large transform fault in the Cretaceous period. The name Adriatic Plate is usually used when referring to the northern part of the plate. This part of the plate was deformed during the Alpine orogeny, when the Adriatic/Apulian Plate collided with the Eurasian plate.
The Adriatic/Apulian Plate is thought to still move independently of the Eurasian Plate in NNE direction with a small component of counter-clockwise rotation. The fault zone that separates the two is the Periadriatic Seam that runs through the Alps. Studies indicate that in addition to deforming, the Eurasian continental crust has actually subducted to some extent below the Adriatic/Apulian Plate, an unusual circumstance in plate tectonics. Oceanic crust of the African Plate is also subducting under the Adriatic/Apulian Plate off the western and southern coasts of the Italian Peninsula, creating a berm of assorted debris which rises from the seafloor and continues onshore. This subduction is also responsible for the volcanics of southern Italy.
The eastern Italian Peninsula, the coastal part of Slovenia, Istria, Malta and the Adriatic Sea are on the Adriatic/Apulian Plate. Mesozoic sedimentary rocks deposited on the plate include the limestones that form the Southern Calcareous Alps.Anatolian Plate
The Anatolian Plate or the Turkish Plate is a continental tectonic plate comprising most of the Anatolia (Asia Minor) peninsula (and the country of Turkey).
To the east, the East Anatolian Fault, a left lateral transform fault, forms a boundary with the Arabian Plate. To the south and southwest is a convergent boundary with the African Plate. This convergence manifests in compressive features within the oceanic crust beneath the Mediterranean as well as within the continental crust of Anatolia itself, and also by what are generally considered to be subduction zones along the Hellenic and Cyprus arcs.
The northern edge is a transform boundary with the Eurasian Plate, forming the North Anatolian Fault Zone (NAFZ).
Research indicates that the Anatolian Plate is rotating counterclockwise as it is being pushed west by the Arabian Plate, impeded from any northerly movement by the Eurasian Plate. In some references, the Anatolian Plate is referred to as a "block" of continental crust still coupled to the Eurasian Plate. But studies of the North Anatolian Fault indicate that Anatolia is de-coupled from the Eurasian Plate. It is now being squeezed by the Arabian Plate from the east and forced toward the west as the Eurasian Plate to its north is blocking motion in that direction. The African Plate is subducting beneath the Anatolian Plate along the Cyprus and Hellenic Arcs offshore in the Mediterranean Sea.Andesite
For the extinct cephalopod genus, see Andesites.
Andesite ( or ) is an extrusive igneous, volcanic rock, of intermediate composition, with aphanitic to porphyritic texture. In a general sense, it is the intermediate type between basalt and rhyolite, and ranges from 57 to 63% silicon dioxide (SiO2) as illustrated in TAS diagrams. The mineral assemblage is typically dominated by plagioclase plus pyroxene or hornblende. Magnetite, zircon, apatite, ilmenite, biotite, and garnet are common accessory minerals. Alkali feldspar may be present in minor amounts. The quartz-feldspar abundances in andesite and other volcanic rocks are illustrated in QAPF diagrams.
Classification of andesites may be refined according to the most abundant phenocryst. Example: hornblende-phyric andesite, if hornblende is the principal accessory mineral.
Andesite can be considered as the extrusive equivalent of plutonic diorite. Characteristic of subduction zones, andesite represents the dominant rock type in island arcs. The average composition of the continental crust is andesitic. Along with basalts they are a major component of the Martian crust. The name andesite is derived from the Andes mountain range.Basement (geology)
In geology, basement and crystalline basement are the rocks below a sedimentary platform or cover, or more generally any rock below sedimentary rocks or sedimentary basins that are metamorphic or igneous in origin. In the same way, the sediments or sedimentary rocks on top of the basement can be called a "cover" or "sedimentary cover".Continent
A continent is one of several very large landmasses. Generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered from largest in area to smallest, they are: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.Geologically, the continents largely correspond to areas of continental crust that are found on the continental plates. However, some areas of continental crust are regions covered with water not usually included in the list of continents. Zealandia is one such area (see submerged continents below). This type of landmass is only known to exist on Earth.Islands are frequently grouped with a neighbouring continent to divide all the world's land into geopolitical regions. Under this scheme, most of the island countries and territories in the Pacific Ocean are grouped together with the continent of Australia to form a geopolitical region called Oceania.Continental arc
A continental arc is a type of volcanic arc occurring as an "arc-shape" topographic high region along a continental margin. The continental arc is formed at an active continental margin where two tectonic plates meet, and where one plate has continental crust and the other oceanic crust along the line of plate convergence, and a subduction zone develops. The magmatism and petrogenesis of continental crust are complicated: in essence, continental arcs reflect a mixture of oceanic crust materials, mantle wedge and continental crust materials.Continental collision
Continental collision is a phenomenon of the plate tectonics of Earth that occurs at convergent boundaries. Continental collision is a variation on the fundamental process of subduction, whereby the subduction zone is destroyed, mountains produced, and two continents sutured together. Continental collision is known only to occur on Earth.
Continental collision is not an instantaneous event, but may take several tens of millions of years before the faulting and folding caused by collisions stops. The collision between India and Asia has been ongoing for about 50 million years already and shows no signs of abating. Collision between East and West Gondwana to form the East African Orogen took about 100 million years from beginning (610 Ma) to end (510 Ma). Collision between Gondwana and Laurasia to form Pangea occurred in a relatively brief interval, about 50 million years long.Continental fragment
Continental crustal fragments, partially synonymous with microcontinents, are fragments of continents that have been broken off from main continental masses forming distinct islands, often several hundred kilometers from their place of origin. All continents are fragments; the terms "continental fragment" and "microcontinent" are usually restricted to those smaller than Australia, due to Australia being the smallest continent. They are not known to contain a craton or fragment of a craton. Continental fragments include some seamounts and underwater plateaus.
Some microcontinents are fragments of Gondwana or other ancient cratonic continents: these include Madagascar; the northern Mascarene Plateau, which includes the Seychelles; the island of Timor, etc. Other islands, such as several in the Caribbean Sea, are composed largely of granitic rock as well, but all continents contain both granitic and basaltic crust, and there is no clear dividing line between islands and microcontinents under such a definition. The Kerguelen Plateau is a large igneous province formed by a volcanic hot spot; however, it was associated with the breakup of Gondwana and was for a time above water, so it is considered a microcontinent, though not a continental fragment. Other hotspot islands such as Iceland and Hawaii are considered neither microcontinents nor continental fragments. Not all islands can be considered microcontinents: the British Isles, Sri Lanka, Borneo, and Newfoundland, for example, are each within the continental shelf of an adjacent continent, separated from the mainland by inland seas flooding its margins.
Several islands in the eastern Indonesian archipelago are considered continental fragments, although this designation is controversial. These include Sumba, Timor (Nusa Tenggara), Banggai-Sulu Islands (Sulawesi), Obi, southern Bacan, and the Buru-Seram-Ambon complex (Maluku).
Continental fragments (pieces of Pangaea smaller than Sahul)Azores Plateau
Bollons Seamount – A continental fragment seamount southeast of New Zealand
East Tasman Plateau – A submerged microcontinent south east of Tasmania
Jan Mayen Microcontinent – A fragment of continental crust within the oceanic part of the western Eurasian Plate northeast of Iceland
Madagascar – Island nation off the coast of Southeast Africa, in the Indian Ocean
Mascarene Plateau – A submarine plateau in the Indian Ocean, north and east of Madagascar.
Mauritia – A Precambrian microcontinent that broke away as India and Madagascar separated
Parts of Wallaby Plateau
Possibly Sumba, Timor, and other islands of eastern Indonesia; Sulawesi was formed via the subduction of a microcontinent
Socotra – The largest of four islands of the Socotra archipelago, Yemen
South Orkney Microcontinent
Zealandia – Mostly submerged mass of continental crust containing New Zealand and New CaledoniaOther microcontinents (formed post-Pangaea)Barbados – Country in the Caribbean
Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, and other granitic Caribbean islands
Kerguelen Plateau – Submerged micro-continent in the southern Indian OceanCrust (geology)
In geology, the crust is the outermost solid shell of a rocky planet, dwarf planet, or natural satellite. It is usually distinguished from the underlying mantle by its chemical makeup; however, in the case of icy satellites, it may be distinguished based on its phase (solid crust vs. liquid mantle).
The crusts of Earth, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Io, and other planetary bodies formed via igneous processes, and were later modified by erosion, impact cratering, volcanism, and sedimentation.
Most terrestrial planets have fairly uniform crusts. Earth, however, has two distinct types: continental crust and oceanic crust. These two types have different chemical compositions and physical properties, and were formed by different geological processes.Dacite
Dacite ( ) is an igneous, volcanic rock. It has an aphanitic to porphyritic texture and is intermediate in composition between andesite and rhyolite. The word dacite comes from Dacia, a province of the Roman Empire which lay between the Danube River and Carpathian Mountains (now modern Romania and Moldova) where the rock was first described.Earth's crust
The Earth's crust is a thin shell on the outside of the Earth, accounting for less than 1% of Earth's volume. It is the top component of lithosphere: a division of Earth's layers that includes the crust and the upper part of the mantle. The lithosphere is broken into tectonic plates that move, allowing heat to escape from the interior of the Earth into space.
The crust lies on top of the mantle, a configuration that is stable because the upper mantle is made of peridotite and so is significantly denser than the crust. The boundary between the crust and mantle is conventionally placed at the Mohorovičić discontinuity, a boundary defined by a contrast in seismic velocity.
The crust of the Earth is of two distinctive types:
Oceanic: 5 km (3 mi) to 10 km (6 mi) thick and composed primarily of denser, more mafic rocks, such as basalt, diabase, and gabbro.
Continental: 30 km (20 mi) to 50 km (30 mi) thick and mostly composed of less dense, more felsic rocks, such as granite.Because both continental and oceanic crust are less dense than the mantle below, both types of crust "float" on the mantle. This is isostasy, and it's also one of the reasons continental crust is higher than oceanic: continental is less dense and so "floats" higher. As a result, water pools in above the oceanic crust, forming the oceans.
The temperature of the crust increases with depth, reaching values typically in the range from about 200 °C (392 °F) to 400 °C (752 °F) at the boundary with the underlying mantle. The temperature increases by as much as 30 °C (54 °F) for every kilometer locally in the upper part of the crust, but the geothermal gradient is smaller in deeper crust.Feldspar
Feldspars (KAlSi3O8 – NaAlSi3O8 – CaAl2Si2O8) are a group of rock-forming tectosilicate minerals that make up about 41% of the Earth's continental crust by weight.Feldspars crystallize from magma as veins in both intrusive and extrusive igneous rocks and are also present in many types of metamorphic rock. Rock formed almost entirely of calcic plagioclase feldspar is known as anorthosite. Feldspars are also found in many types of sedimentary rocks.List of tectonic plates
This is a list of tectonic plates on the Earth's surface. Tectonic plates are pieces of Earth's crust and uppermost mantle, together referred to as the lithosphere. The plates are around 100 km (62 mi) thick and consist of two principal types of material: oceanic crust (also called sima from silicon and magnesium) and continental crust (sial from silicon and aluminium). The composition of the two types of crust differs markedly, with mafic basaltic rocks dominating oceanic crust, while continental crust consists principally of lower-density felsic granitic rocks.Neoproterozoic
The Neoproterozoic Era is the unit of geologic time from 1,000 to 541 million years ago.It is the last era of the Precambrian Supereon and the Proterozoic Eon; it is subdivided into the Tonian, Cryogenian, and Ediacaran Periods. It is preceded by the Mesoproterozoic era and succeeded by the Paleozoic era.
The most severe glaciation known in the geologic record occurred during the Cryogenian, when ice sheets reached the equator and formed a possible "Snowball Earth".
The earliest fossils of multicellular life are found in the Ediacaran, including the Ediacarans, which were the earliest animals.
According to Rino and co-workers, the sum of the continental crust formed in the Pan-African orogeny and the Grenville orogeny makes the Neoproterozoic the period of Earth's history that has produced most continental crust.Norfolk Ridge
The Norfolk Ridge is a long submarine ridge running between New Caledonia and New Zealand, about 1300 km off the east-coast of Australia.
It is part of a complex region of ridges between the crust of the Pacific Basin and the continental crust of Australia. Little is known about the Norfolk Ridge; however, it generally lies about 2000 m below sea level and consists of Late Cretaceous continental crust. It is part of Zealandia, a submerged continent that sank 60-85 million years ago.Obduction
Obduction is the overthrusting of continental crust by oceanic crust or mantle rocks at a convergent plate boundary, such as closing of an ocean or a mountain building episode. This process is uncommon because the denser oceanic lithosphere usually subducts underneath the less dense continental plate.Obduction occurs where a fragment of continental crust is caught in a subduction zone with resulting overthrusting of oceanic mafic and ultramafic rocks from the mantle onto the continental crust. Obduction often occurs where a small tectonic plate is caught between two larger plates, with the crust (both island arc and oceanic) welding onto an adjacent continent as a new terrane. When two continental plates collide, obduction of the oceanic crust between them is often a part of the resulting orogeny.Most obductions appear to have initiated at back-arc basins above the subduction zones during the closing of an ocean or an orogeny.Oceanic crust
Oceanic crust is the uppermost layer of the oceanic portion of a tectonic plate. It is composed of the upper oceanic crust, with pillow lavas and a dike complex, and the lower oceanic crust, composed of troctolite, gabbro and ultramafic cumulates. The crust overlies the solidified and uppermost layer of the mantle. The crust and the solid mantle layer together constitute oceanic lithosphere.
Oceanic crust is primarily composed of mafic rocks, or sima, which is rich in iron and magnesium. It is thinner than continental crust, or sial, generally less than 10 kilometers thick; however, it is denser, having a mean density of about 3.0 grams per cubic centimeter as opposed to continental crust which has a density of about 2.7 grams per cubic centimeter.The crust uppermost is the result of the cooling of magma derived from mantle material below the plate. The magma is injected into the spreading center, which consists mainly of a partly solidified crystal mush derived from earlier injections, forming magma lenses that are the source of the sheeted dikes that feed the overlying pillow lavas. As the lavas cool they are, in most instances, modified chemically by seawater. These eruptions occur mostly at mid-ocean ridges, but also at scattered hotspots, and also in rare but powerful occurrences known as flood basalt eruptions. But most magma crystallises at depth, within the lower oceanic crust. There, newly intruded magma can mix and react with pre-existing crystal mush and rocks.Oceanic plateau
An oceanic or submarine plateau is a large, relatively flat elevation that is higher than the surrounding relief with one or more relatively steep sides.There are 184 oceanic plateaus covering an area of 18,486,600 km2 (7,137,700 sq mi), or about 5.11% of the oceans. The South Pacific region around Australia and New Zealand contains the greatest number of oceanic plateaus (see map).
Oceanic plateaus produced by large igneous provinces are often associated with hotspots, mantle plumes, and volcanic islands — such as Iceland, Hawaii, Cape Verde, and Kerguelen. The three largest plateaus, the Caribbean, Ontong Java, and Mid-Pacific Mountains, are located on thermal swells. Other oceanic plateaus, however, are made of rifted continental crust, for example Falkland Plateau, Lord Howe Rise, and parts of Kerguelen, Seychelles, and Arctic ridges.
Plateaus formed by large igneous provinces were formed by the equivalent of continental flood basalts such as the Deccan Traps in India and the Snake River Plain in the United States.
In contrast to continental flood basalts, most igneous oceanic plateaus erupt through young and thin (6–7 km (3.7–4.3 mi)) mafic or ultra-mafic crust and are therefore uncontaminated by felsic crust and representative for their mantle sources.
These plateaus often rise 2–3 km (1.2–1.9 mi) above the surrounding ocean floor and are more buoyant than oceanic crust. They therefore tend to withstand subduction, more-so when thick and when reaching subduction zones shortly after their formations. As a consequence, they tend to "dock" to continental margins and be preserved as accreted terranes. Such terranes are often better preserved than the exposed parts of continental flood basalts and are therefore a better record of large-scale volcanic eruptions throughout Earth's history. This "docking" also means that oceanic plateaus are important contributors to the growth of continental crust. Their formations often had a dramatic impact on global climate, such as the most recent plateaus formed, the three, large, Cretaceous oceanic plateaus in the Pacific and Indian Ocean: Ontong Java, Kerguelen, and Caribbean.
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