Elongated trough formed by the subsidence of a segment of the Earth's crust between dip-slip, or normal, faults. Rift valleys are usually narrow and long and have a relatively flat floor. The sides drop away steeply in steps and terraces. Rift valleys are found on the continents and along the crests of oceanic ridges. They occur where two plates that make up the Earth's surface are separating (see plate tectonics). Submarine rift valleys are usually centres of seafloor spreading, where magma wells up from the mantle. The most extensive continental rift valleys are those of the East African Rift System; other notable examples include Russia's Baikal Rift Valley and Germany's Rhine Rift Valley.
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Typical rift features are a central linear downdropped fault segment, called a graben, with parallel normal faulting and rift-flank uplifts on either side forming a rift valley, where the rift remains above sea level. The axis of the rift area commonly contains volcanic rocks and active volcanism is a part of many, but not all active rift systems.
Failed rifts are where continental rifting began, but then failed to continue to the point of break-up. Typically the transition from rifting to spreading develops at a triple junction where three converging rifts meet over a hotspot. Two of these evolve to the point of seafloor spreading, while the third ultimately fails, becoming an aulacogen.