Abstract

This summary article describes the surface heat flow and heat generation data available for the Southern Canadian Cordillera Lithoprobe Transect, and the inferred crustal temperatures. At the western end of the transect, the continental margin has the characteristic heat flow pattern of a subduction zone; there are high heat flows over the young oceanic crust of the deep-sea Cascadia Basin (~120 mW·m−2), decreasing values landward on the continental slope and shelf (90–50 mW·m−2), and very low heat flow and low crustal temperatures in the forearc region of Vancouver Island and the adjacent mainland (30–40 mW·m−2). Very high and irregular heat flow occurs in the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt at the northern end of the Cascade volcanic arc. To the east, across the Intermontane and Omineca belts to the Rocky Mountain Trench, the heat flow and inferred crustal temperatures are high. The highest values are in the east in the Omineca Belt, where the radioactive heat generation is especially great. The crustal thermal regime has important implications for the interpretation of the deep seismic structure: (1) The brittle–ductile transition (~450 °C), which occurs in the mid-crust for most of the transect, is expected to represent a general level of thrust and normal fault detachment. The deeper crust may be mechanically decoupled from that above. (2) Crustal thickness may be related to temperature. If the lithosphere temperature is high and its density decreased by thermal expansion, there can be isostatic equilibrium with a thin crust and high topography. (3) The thermal regime appears to control the depth to the widespread crustal reflectivity and high electrical conductivity in the deep crust.

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