Rift valleys on the Earth and planets

Cracks in the crust – rift valleys on the Earth and planets

On Earth, plate tectonics is a fundamental component of a complex system that sustains life. Tectonic processes resurface the Earth every few hundred million years, whereas the surface of our neighbour planet Mars has remained relatively static for at least a billion years. Nevertheless, there is evidence of large rifts in the crust of Mars, some of which are similar to those seen on Earth. Recent seismic experiments on Earth are providing new insights into the forces that drive rifting, while the latest space missions to Mars are providing unprecedented views of Martian geology, past and present. In contrast, Venus is much hotter and very active. If there is plate tectonics on Venus, it is very different from that on Earth or Mars. We can draw on our knowledge of rifting on Earth to help interpret geologic activity on both Mars and Venus.

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About Mike Kendall

Mike Kendall is Professor of Seismology and Head of the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol. Born in England and raised in Canada, he has held faculty positions at the University of Toronto and the University of Leeds. He is currently president of the British Geophysical Association and is a past vice-president of the Royal Astronomical Society. Mike’s research covers pure and applied seismology, with current interests in the nature of the boundary between the Earth’s core and mantle, plate tectonics and volcano monitoring. He has led seismic field experiments to locations ranging from the Canadian Arctic to remote parts of Ethiopia.

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