Parmentier, E. Mark Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island.
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The branch of geophysics that studies the processes leading to deformation of planetary mantle and crust and the related earthquakes and volcanism that shape the structure of the Earth and other planets. On the largest scale, these processes are a consequence of the transfer of heat out of planetary interiors due to cooling at their surfaces. Rock contracts as it cools, so that its density increases. The cool surface layer is heavier than the interior and has a tendency to sink into it. At the same time, cooling and solidification of the metallic core heats the deepest portion of the surrounding rocky mantle, causing it to become buoyant. The resulting flow of the mantle causes deformation at the surface. Volcanism arises from the partial melting of hot mantle that rises toward the surface from the deeper interior, in response either to buoyancy or to surface deformation. Surface deformation also results from external loads, such as the distribution of ice and water, tidal loads due to the gravitational attraction of nearby planetary bodies, and meteor impacts. See also: Earth, convection in; Earth, heat flow in; Geophysics; Volcano
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