Topography is maintained by stress differences within the earth. Depending on the distribution of the stress we classify the support as either local or regional compensation. In general, the stresses implied in a regional compensation scheme are an order of magnitude larger than those corresponding to local isostasy. Gravity anomalies, a measure of the earth's departure from hydrostatic equilibrium, can be used to distinguish between the two compensation mechanisms and thus to estimate the magnitude of deviatoric stress in the crust and upper mantle. Topography created at an ocean ridge crest or in a major contiental orogenic zone appears to be locally compensated. Such features were formed on weak crust incapable of maintaining stress differences much greater than the stress from the applied load. Oceanic volcanoes formed on an already cooled, thickened lithosphere are regionally supported with elastic stresses. -Author
Additional publication details
Implications of regional gravity for state of stress in the earth's crust and upper mantle.