Latin chasma , < Greek χάσμα yawning hollow; Latin hiare. The Greek-Latin form chasma was used for some time unchanged. 1596
- 1: a deep cleft in the surface of a planet (as the earth) : gorge
- 2: a marked division, separation, or difference
In geology, a rift or chasm is a place where the Earth's crust and lithosphere are being pulled apart and is an example of extensional tectonics.
Typical rift features are a central linear downfaulted segment, called a graben, with parallel normal faulting and rift-flank uplifts on either side forming a rift valley, where the rift remains above sea level. The axis of the rift area commonly contains volcanic rocks, and active volcanism is a part of many, but not all active rift systems.
Major rifts occur along the central axis of mid-ocean ridges, where new oceanic crust and lithosphere is created along a divergent boundary between two tectonic plates.
Failed rifts are where continental rifting began, but then failed to continue to the point of break-up. Typically the transition from rifting to spreading develops at a triple junction where three converging rifts meet over a hotspot. Two of these evolve to the point of seafloor spreading, while the third ultimately fails, becoming an aulacogen.