Rheology of the lithosphere


  • Stephen H. Kirby


During the quadrennial term 1979–1982, major advances have been made in our knowledge of the rheology of the oceanic lithosphere by the skillful combination of experimental and theoretical rock mechanics, seismology and marine geophysics in increasingly sophisticated models for the flexure of the oceanic lithosphere at seamounts and island chains, along transform faults, and at subduction zones. The relative simplicity of plate bending geometry, thermal history, and mineralogical and chemical compositions of the oceanic plates in these settings make the geophysical observations very powerful constraints on the in situ rheology of the oceanic lithosphere. In the first part of this paper, I review the laboratory work on materials appropriate to the oceanic lithosphere with emphasis on contributions during the quadrennial period and the need for future work. The important results of flexure models incorporating realistic material properties are then summarized.