Geology & Geophysics Editors' Highlights

Taking the Temperature of Antarctica’s Crust

How do you measure the geothermal heat flux in a continent covered by an ice-sheet? A new study uses correlations of diverse global observables and produces a heat flow map of the entire Antarctica.

Source: Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems


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In most places around the world, measuring the heat flow through the shallow crustal rocks is routine, and heat-flow maps are compiled using numerous direct measurements. This is not so in Antarctica, where subglacial heat-flow measurements are challenging and rare. The geothermal heat flux, however, is important for us to know as it has a major influence on the melting, flow, and mass balance of the ice sheets and represents an essential boundary condition for ice-sheet modelling. How, then, can we best map the heat flow? Stål et al. [2021] solve the problem by exploiting global correlations of heat flow with other observables. Assembling a large global set of diverse geophysical and geological data, they identify key correlations and calculate a new heat flow map of the entire Antarctica.

Citation: Stål, T., Reading, A. M., Halpin, J. A., & Whittaker, J. M. [2021]. Antarctic geothermal heat flow model: Aq1. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 22, e2020GC009428. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020GC009428

—Sergei Lebedev, Associate Editor, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems

Text © 2021. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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