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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: review article 16 Mar 2020

Submitted as: review article | 16 Mar 2020

Review status
This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Geothermal heat flow in Antarctica: current and future directions

Alex Burton-Johnson1, Ricarda Dziadek2, and Carlos Martin1 Alex Burton-Johnson et al.
  • 1British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0ET, UK
  • 2Alfred Wegener Institute-Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Am Alten Hafen, Bremerhaven, Germany

Abstract. Antarctic geothermal heat flow (GHF) affects the temperature of the ice sheet, determining its ability to slide and internally deform, as well as the behaviour of the continental crust. However, GHF remains poorly constrained, with few and sparse local, borehole-derived estimates, and large discrepancies in the magnitude and distribution of existing continent-scale estimates from geophysical models. We review the methods to extract GHF, compile borehole and probe-derived estimates from measured temperature profiles, and recommend the following future directions: 1) Obtain more borehole-derived estimates from the subglacial bedrock and englacial temperature profiles. 2) Estimate GHF beneath the interior of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (the region most sensitive to GHF variation) via long-wavelength microwave emissivity. 3) Estimate GHF from inverse glaciological modelling, constrained by evidence for basal melting. 4) Revise geophysically-derived GHF estimates using a combination of Curie depth, seismic, and thermal isostasy models. 5) Integrate in these geophysical approaches a more accurate model of the structure and distribution of heat production elements within the crust, and considering heterogeneities in the underlying mantle. And 6) continue international interdisciplinary communication and data access.

Alex Burton-Johnson et al.

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Alex Burton-Johnson et al.

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Latest update: 06 Apr 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The Antarctic ice sheet is the largest source for sea level rise. However, one key control on ice sheet flow remains poorly constrained: the effect of heat from the rocks beneath the ice sheet (known as “geothermal heat flow”). Although this may not seem like a lot of heat, beneath thick, slow ice this heat can control how well the ice flows, and can lead to melting of the ice sheet. We discuss the methods used to estimate this heat, compile existing data, and recommend future research.
The Antarctic ice sheet is the largest source for sea level rise. However, one key control on...