Eighty-two seafloor heat-flow measurements were recently obtained across the Mississippi Fan region in the deepwater northeastern Gulf of Mexico. These data display an abrupt transition in heat flow between an area near the center of Pleistocene deposition (∼20 mW/m2) and the eastern margin of the fan (∼40 mW/m2). Although deposition of fan sediments has very likely suppressed the shallow subseafloor thermal regime, causing lower seafloor heat-flow values near the center, the magnitude and abruptness of the heat-flow contrast cannot be fully accounted for by the mechanisms related to sedimentary deposition, which include radiogenic heat production in sediments, pore-fluid migration, and presence of salt structures. The most plausible explanation for the sharp heat-flow contrast is that the heat released from the igneous basement is significantly greater in the eastern margin of the fan. The zone of contrasting heat flow lies along a previously suggested boundary between the oceanic crust and the thin transitional crust in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. The area of higher heat flow coincides with the suggested zone of transitional crust, which, because of its granitic origin, generates greater amounts of radiogenic heat than oceanic crust. This finding opens up the possibility that heat-flow data may be used in delineating crustal lithologic boundaries along continental margins.

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