A new heat flux model for the Antarctic Peninsula incorporating spatially variable upper crustal radiogenic heat production

A. Burton-Johnson, J. A. Halpin, J. M. Whittaker, F. S. Graham, S. J. Watson

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21 Citations (Scopus)


A new method for modeling heat flux shows that the upper crust contributes up to 70% of the Antarctic Peninsula's subglacial heat flux and that heat flux values are more variable at smaller spatial resolutions than geophysical methods can resolve. Results indicate a higher heat flux on the east and south of the Peninsula (mean 81 mW m−2) where silicic rocks predominate, than on the west and north (mean 67 mW m−2) where volcanic arc and quartzose sediments are dominant. While the data supports the contribution of heat-producing element-enriched granitic rocks to high heat flux values, sedimentary rocks can be of comparative importance dependent on their provenance and petrography. Models of subglacial heat flux must utilize a heterogeneous upper crust with variable radioactive heat production if they are to accurately predict basal conditions of the ice sheet. Our new methodology and data set facilitate improved numerical model simulations of ice sheet dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5436-5446
Number of pages11
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Antarctica
  • glaciological modeling
  • glaciology
  • heat flow
  • heat flux
  • heat production

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