Difference Between Lithosphere and Asthenosphere

Many know about the layers present above the Earth’s surface but do they know about the layers present below the Earth’s surface or the atmosphere?

These layers are the lithosphere, asthenosphere, mantle, outer core and inner core. Two layers that are often found difficult to differentiate are the lithosphere and asthenosphere.

Lithosphere vs Asthenosphere

The difference between Lithosphere and Asthenosphere is that the varieties of elements found on the lithosphere are larger than that in the asthenosphere. The lithosphere consists of 80 elements and 200 mineral types whereas asthenosphere mainly contains iron-magnesium silicate.

Lithosphere vs Asthenosphere

The lithosphere is the layer present below the atmosphere and it consists of the Earth’s crust along with the uppermost solid layer of the mantel. This is the layer where the tectonic plates lie that are the cause of earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

The asthenosphere is the layer below the lithosphere. It is made of the uppermost weaker layers of the mantel and has a depth of 700 km from the Earth’s surface.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonLithosphereAsthenosphere
PositionBelow the earth’s surface and atmosphereBelow the lithosphere
Depth80km to 200km below the earth’s surfaceExtends to 700 km below the earth’s surface.
ComponentsCrust and uppermost solid mantelConsists of the uppermost weaker part of the mantel
Physical structureRigid, brittle and elastic that contains the tectonic platesMostly solid with some partially molten rocks that exhibit the characteristics of plastic.
CharacteristicsElastic and ductileIs more ductile than the lithosphere
Mineral contentsOf nearly 80 element and 2000 minerals.Mainly contains iron-magnesium silicate.
Temperature400 degree Celsius approximatelyCan vary from 300 to 600 degree Celsius.

What is Lithosphere?

The lithosphere is the uppermost layer of the Earth. It lies right below the atmosphere and has a varying depth of 80 km to 200 km below the Earth’s surface.

Statistically, the lithosphere has 80 varieties of elements along with 2000 other mineral compounds.

The concept of lithosphere was developed in 1911 by Barrell. This was because there was a gravitational field present that led to his belief of having a strong upper layer of Earth.

At the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary, the molten rocks condense to form brittle rocks that break down.


What is Asthenosphere?

The asthenosphere is the layer present below the lithosphere. They consist of the uppermost weaker layer of the mantel and has a depth of 700 km from the Earth’s surface.

The asthenosphere is mostly solid except for a few regions that have half molten rocks and are thus semi-fluid. This is the reason of their ductility and their characteristic features resembling that on plastic.

The concept of the asthenosphere came in 1926.

Therefore, the movement of the half molten rocks in the asthenosphere is what causes natural disasters.


Main Differences Between Lithosphere and Asthenosphere

  1. The lithosphere is located right below the Earth’s atmosphere whereas the asthenosphere is located right below the lithosphere or the uppermost solid mantel layer.
  2. Lithosphere has a depth of about 80 km to 200 km below the Earth’s surface. In the case of the asthenosphere, it has a depth of 700 km below the earth’s surface.


  1. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2012GC004060
  2. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/JB081i020p03525
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