Continental rifts are possible analogues of mid-ocean ridges, although major plate tectonic features are less clearly observed1. Current thermal models of mid-ocean ridges2-4 consist of solid lithospheric plates overlying the hotter, less viscous asthenosphere, with plate thickness increasing away from the ridge axis. The lithospheric lower boundary lies at or near the melting point isotherm, so that at greater depths higher temperatures account for lower viscosity, lower seismic velocities and possibly partial melting. Upwarp of this boundary at the ridge axis concentrates heat there, thus lowering densities by expansion and raising the sea floor to the level of thermal isostatic equilibrium. At slow spreading ridges, a major central graben forms owing to the mechanics of magma injection into the crust5. Topography, heat flow, gravity and seismic studies support these models. On the continents, a low-velocity channel has been observed, although it is poorly developed beneath ancient cratons6-9. Plate tectonic models have been applied to continental basins and margins10-12, but further similarities to the oceanic models remain elusive. Topographic uplift is often ascribed to Airy type isostatic compensation caused by crustal thickening, rather than thermal compensation in the asthenosphere. Here we discuss the Rio Grande rift, in southwestern United States. Teleseismic P-wave residuals show that regional uplift is explained by asthenosphere uplift rather than crustal thickening. ?? 1984 Nature Publishing Group.
Additional publication details
Upwarp of anomalous asthenosphere beneath the Rio Grande rift