Mohorovičić discontinuity

Mohorovičić discontinuity
Earth cross-section showing location of the Mohorovičić discontinuity
Two paths of a P-wave, one direct and one refracted as it crosses the Moho.[1]
Ordovician ophiolite in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland. This rock which formed the Ordovician Moho is exposed on the surface.

The Mohorovičić discontinuity (Croatian pronunciation: [mɔhɔˈrɔvitʃitɕ]) (MOE-HOE-ROE-vee-cheech), usually referred to as the Moho, is the boundary between the Earth's crust and the mantle. Named after the pioneering Croatian seismologist Andrija Mohorovičić, the Moho separates both the oceanic crust and continental crust from underlying mantle. The Moho mostly lies entirely within the lithosphere; only beneath mid-ocean ridges does it define the lithosphereasthenosphere boundary. The Mohorovičić discontinuity was first identified in 1909 by Mohorovičić, when he observed that seismograms from shallow-focus earthquakes had two sets of P-waves and S-waves, one that followed a direct path near the Earth's surface and the other refracted by a high velocity medium.[1]

The Mohorovičić discontinuity is 5 to 10 kilometres (3–6 mi) below the ocean floor and 20 to 90 kilometres (10–60 mi) beneath typical continents, with an average of 35 kilometres (22 mi) beneath them.[2]


Nature of the Moho

Immediately above the Moho the velocities of primary seismic waves (P-waves) are approximately those of basalt (6.7 – 7.2 km/s), and below they are that of peridotitic or dunitic Earth-materials (7.6 – 8.6 km/s).[3] That suggests the Moho marks a change of composition, but the interface appears to be too even for any believable sorting mechanism within the Earth. Near-surface observations suggest such sorting produces an irregular surface. Some history of suggestions that the boundary marks instead a phase change controlled by a temperature gradient in the Earth can be found in Howell.[4]


During the late 1950s and early 1960s, a proposal was taken up in the executive committee of the National Science Foundation to drill a hole through the ocean floor to reach this boundary. However the operation, named Project Mohole, never received sufficient support and was mismanaged; it was canceled by the United States Congress in 1967. Simultaneous efforts were made by the Soviet Union at the Kola Institute, which reached a depth of 12,260 metres (40,220 ft) over 15 years, the world's deepest hole until 2011, before that attempt was also abandoned in 1989.[5]

Reaching the discontinuity remains an important scientific objective. A more recent proposal considers a self-descending tungsten capsule heated by radiogenic heat to explore Earth's interior near the Moho discontinuity and in the upper mantle.[6] The Japanese project Chikyu Hakken ("Earth Discovery") also aims to explore this general area.

See also




  1. ^ a b Andrew McLeish (1992). Geological science (2nd ed.). Thomas Nelson & Sons. p. 122. ISBN 0174482213. 
  2. ^ James Stewart Monroe, Reed Wicander (2008). The changing Earth: exploring geology and evolution (5th ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 216. ISBN 0495554804. 
  3. ^ RB Cathcart & MM Ćirković (2006). Viorel Badescu, Richard Brook Cathcart, Roelof D. Schuiling. ed. Macro-engineering: a challenge for the future. Springer. p. 169. ISBN 1402037392. 
  4. ^ Benjamin Franklin Howell (1990). An introduction to seismological research: history and development. Cambridge University Press. p. 77 ff. ISBN 0521385717. 
  5. ^ "How the Soviets Drilled the Deepest Hole in the World". Wired. 2008-08-25. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  6. ^ Ozhovan, M.; F. Gibb, P. Poluektov and E. Emets (August 2005). "Probing of the Interior Layers of the Earth with Self-Sinking Capsules". Atomic Energy 99 (2): 556–562. doi:10.1007/s10512-005-0246-y. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mohorovicic discontinuity — Mohorovicic discontinuity, n. (Geol.) same as 2nd {Moho}. [PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Mohorovičić discontinuity — [mō΄hō rō′və chich΄] n. [after A. Mohorovičić (1857 1936), Yugoslav geologist] Geol. an irregular dividing line separating the earth s crust from its underlying mantle, situated c. 35 km ( c. 21.7 mi) below the continents and c. 5 to 10 km ( c. 3 …   English World dictionary

  • Mohorovicic discontinuity — noun the boundary between the Earth s crust and the underlying mantle the Mohorovicic discontinuity averages 5 miles down under oceans and 20 miles down under continents • Syn: ↑Moho • Topics: ↑geology • Instance Hypernyms: ↑boundary, ↑bound …   Useful english dictionary

  • Mohorovicic discontinuity — /moh haw roh veuh chich, hoh /, Geol. the discontinuity between the crust and the mantle of the earth, occurring at depths that average about 22 mi. (35 km) beneath the continents and about 6 mi. (10 km) beneath the ocean floor. Also, Moho. [1935 …   Universalium

  • Mohorovicic discontinuity — (Moho)   after Mohorovicic, the junction between the crust and the mantle …   Geography glossary

  • Mohorovicic discontinuity — /moʊhəˌroʊvətʃɪtʃ dɪskɒntənˈjuəti/ (say mohhuh.rohvuhchich diskontuhn yoohuhtee) noun the dividing line between the earth s crust and mantle where an abrupt change occurs in the velocity of earthquake waves. Also, moho. {named after A Mohorovičic …  

  • Mohorovicic discontinuity — noun Date: 1936 Moho …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Mohorovičić discontinuity — noun The boundary between the Earths crust and mantle. Syn: Moho …   Wiktionary

  • discontinuity layer — discontinuity layer, 1. the layer between the earth s crust and mantle; Mohorovicic discontinuity. 2. a layer of water between parts that differ markedly in temperature; thermocline …   Useful english dictionary

  • Mohorovičič, Andrija — born Jan. 23, 1857, Volosko, Croatia, Austian Empire died Dec. 18, 1936, Zagreb, Yugos. Croatian meteorologist and geophysicist who discovered the boundary between the Earth s crust and the mantle, later named the Mohorovičič discontinuity, or… …   Universalium

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