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This is a drawing of seafloor spreading.
Click on image for full size
Image copyright 1997 by the American Geophysical Union. Further electronic distribution is not allowed.

Mid-Ocean Spreading Ridge

As the Earth cools, hot material from the deep interior rises to the surface. Hot material is red in this drawing, under an ocean shown in blue green.

The hotter material raises the nearby layers, and the cooler, harder crust (in yellow in this drawing) slides away from the higher regions. The drawing shows that the cool crust slides at a rate of about 3 inches per year. The elevated region where new material is coming forth is called a "spreading ridge". Most of the spreading ridges of today are to be found in the central portion of the world's oceans.

The large version of this drawing shows a spreading ridge at the left and a slab of lithosphere being subducted at the bottom right. Near the subducting slab, remelting, and volcano formation are taking place.


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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA