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continental rift

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A long, narrow fissure in the Earth marking a zone of the lithosphere that has become thinner due to extensional forces associated with plate tectonics. Continental rifts are thousands of kilometers in length and hundreds of kilometers in width, and they are associated with normal faults and with grabens.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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