Diastrophism, also called tectonism, large-scale deformation of Earth’s crust by natural processes, which leads to the formation of continents and ocean basins, mountain systems, plateaus, rift valleys, and other features by mechanisms such as lithospheric plate movement ( plate tectonics), volcanic loading, or folding.
All processes that move, elevate or build up portions of the earth’s crust come under diastrophism. They include: (i) orogenic processes involving mountain building through severe folding and affecting long and narrow belts of the earth’s crust; (ii) epeirogenic processes involving uplift or warping of large parts of the earth’s crust; (iii) earthquakes involving local relatively minor movements; (iv) plate tectonics involving horizontal movements of crustal plates.
There are various theories of the cause of diastrophic movement such as being the result of pressures exerted by convection currents in the mantle or the rise of magma through the crust. Other deformations are caused by meteorite impact and combinations of gravity and erosion such as landslides and slumping.
The study of diastrophism encompasses the varying responses of the crust to tectonic stresses. These responses include linear or torsional horizontal movements (continental drift by Alfred Wegner) and vertical subsidence and uplift of the lithosphere (strain) in response to natural stresses on Earth’s surface such as the weight of mountains, lakes, and glaciers. Subsurface conditions also cause subsidence or uplift, known as epeirogeny, over large areas of Earth’s surface without deforming rock strata. Such changes include the thickening of the lithosphere by overthrusting, changes in rock density of the lithosphere caused by metamorphism or thermal expansion and contraction, increases in the volume of the asthenosphere (part of the upper mantle supporting the lithosphere) caused by hydration of olivine, and orogenic, or mountain-building, movements.
Source(s) and Links:
Seismic Waves and Earth Interior
Relationship of Earthquakes and Theory of Plate Pectonics
Plate Tectonics, the Cause of Earthquakes
Plate Tectonic , Plate Boundaries and Mid Oceanic Ridge