Abstract

Lithosphere at mid-ocean ridges is rheologically stratified. The extensional failure of rheologically stratified lithosphere can be modelled by integrating the appropriate failure criteria over the appropriate depths to the base of the lithosphere. This integrated lithospheric strength is the force per unit length required for whole lithospheric failure to occur. Oceanic spreading centres are in a nearly constant state of whole lithospheric failure. Lithosphere at a given ridge axis has a characteristic integrated strength which is met for spreading to continue. Variations in integrated strength have important implications for tectonic phenomena such as jumps at spreading centres.

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