We explain what the earth's crust is, how it formed, its movement, layers and other characteristics. In addition, oceanic and continental crust.
What is the earth's crust?
The earth's crust is the most superficial layer of planet Earth . It is the outermost, thinnest and most recent of the Earth's layers. It is the layer on which we inhabit living beings, even those that enter the deepest layers of the soil.
The earth's crust is part, next to the earth's mantle and the earth's core, of the so-called geosphere, which is the solid part of the planet. The crust extends from the surface to 35 kilometers average depth . The depth is taken on average as it varies depending on whether it is:
- Oceanic crust . It covers 55% of the planet's surface, located thousands of meters deep under the ocean, and is thinner than the continental (with a thickness of 5 km at the ocean floor).
- Continental crust . Heterogeneous in nature, since it is formed by rocks of different origins, with the most abundant minerals being quartz, feldspars and micas. Its thickness is much greater, reaching 70 km in mountainous areas.
Earth is the only known rocky planet that has a heterogeneous crust from a chemical and physical point of view, since they were produced by different geological processes.
Characteristics of the earth's crust
The earth's crust represents less than 1% of the total volume of the planet . However, it is all we know directly, since it extends up to 35 kilometers towards the nucleus, of which only 12.2 km were excavated with the deepest well in history, the Kola Superprofundo Well (KSDB), the work of The former Soviet Union.
The crust is the upper part of the lithosphere, along with the upper part of the mantle, above the Mohorovicic discontinuity. Since it is much less dense than the mantle, the crust "floats" above.
As the depth increases the temperature also rises, ranging between 200 and 400 ° C, at a rate of 30 ° C per kilometer deep.
The most abundant chemical elements in the composition of the bark are: oxygen (46.6%), silicon (27.7%), aluminum (8.1%), iron (5.0%), calcium (3.6 %), sodium (2.8%), potassium (2.6%) and magnesium (1.5%). The rest of the bark volume is represented by water and other scarce elements, adding less than 1% of its composition.
Earth's crust formation
In the geological history of the planet, the first Earth's crust formed 4400 to 4550 million years ago . Since then its volumes have been increasing over time.
As terrestrial conditions stabilized and the planet cooled, new layers of crust emerged to occupy a considerable volume 2, 500 million years ago, largely thanks to two major geological events: one 2500-2700 million years ago, and another 1700-1900 million years ago.
However, the earth's crust is constantly forming . To do this, portions of it sink into the mantle (subduction) to melt into the underground liquid magma, while other new portions emerge in the centers of expansion of the oceanic crust.
The continental crust has an average age of 2 million years, which makes it much older than the oceanic crust.
Movement and dynamics of the earth's crust
The earth's crust is far from static. The plates that compose it are floating on the mantle, composed of pasty materials subjected to enormous pressures. Therefore, a slow displacement of the cortex occurs, which is known as tectonic dynamics.
Thus, the different portions of the crust rub and collide, exerting pressure on each other and giving rise to the orogenesis or creation of the mountains, as the crust folds and bulges. In this way the relief depends largely on the movement of the crust.
Similarly, depressions or technical failures can also be generated, when one plate is submerged below the other, liquefying and increasing the internal pressure of the magma to exit. This is how volcanoes arise.
These movements of the earth's crust also give rise to earthquakes and tremors, since the friction between the tectonic plates produces seismic waves that are transmitted to the surface, sometimes with devastating effects.
Similarly, they originate continental drift, which is the movement of continental masses over time, from primitive supercontinents (such as Pangea) to the current configuration.
Layers of the Earth's crust
The earth's crust is a relatively homogeneous layer, that is, it has no layers or subdivisions . The only way to differentiate it is between the continental crust, thicker, older and more robust, and the oceanic crust, younger, thin and mobile.
Importance of the earth's crust
The earth's crust is a vital area of the planet. For starters, this is where life (biosphere), the only phenomenon of our planet in the Solar System, takes place.
In addition, dry and warm rocks can react with water and oxygen that abound on the surface. In the crust, new forms of rocks and minerals arise that make up the richness and mineral abundance of our environment.
In addition, orogenesis would not be possible without the movements of the cortex, nor the complex dynamics of geological changes that this implies, and therefore could not be give chemical cycles such as water, which requires the mountains to flow in rivers to the sea.