Heat Flow in the Arctic


  • Arthur H. Lachenbruch
  • B. Vaughn Marshall






Defines heat flow as the flux at the earth's solid surface of heat conducted from the interior; the heat-flow-unit (hfu) is on the order of 1-millionth calorie through each sq cm of the surface/sec, which is enough to melt a 4-mm layer of ice over the earth's surface/yr. Earth heat originates from radioactive decay of U, Th and K in the crust and mantle. Although land heat-flow measurements in the Arctic are too few for regional interpretation, those from Cape Thompson, Barrow and Cape Simpson, Northern Alaska are discussed and figured to show what they contribute to understanding of permafrost, climatic change and shoreline movements. Measuring thermal conductivity and gradient is much simpler in ocean basins than on land. Locations of such measurements are mapped, the results for the Alaskan quadrant in more detail. The sharp change in heat flow at the edge of the Alpha Cordillera, shown in a geothermal model, suggests that this feature is a huge accumulation of basalt, rather than mantle material or remnant of a foundering continent as previously postulated. Future Arctic heat flow studies are discussed.