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a major linear tectonic structure of the earth’s crust hundreds and thousands of kilometers long that forms when the crust is horizontally extended; this process usually occurs where there is a vast arching uplift. It is believed that the entire thickness or a significant part of the thickness of the earth’s crust is being extended.
A rift consists mainly of a series of fractures, among which faults with inclined surfaces predominate; the crustal sector lying above the surface of a fault is also dislocated downward. The sum of the horizontal components of all such shifts compensates for the horizontal extension of the crust. The dip of a fault is usually 60°-70°, and the vertical amplitude of the shift along a fault may reach 5 km. The crustal extension can be several kilometers, and in some cases, several tens of kilometers long.
Various types of grabens and horsts are found within a rift. The graben is the chief structural form. A rift usually begins to form, however, with a gentle upward bend of the crust in the form of a tectonic arch; the arch later breaks up and separates into grabens and horsts. Very large rifts are called rift zones or systems.
V. V. BELOUSOV