Abstract

Geothermal studies were conducted within the framework of Lithoprobe to systematically document variations of heat flow and surface heat production in the major geological provinces of the Canadian Shield. One of the main conclusions is that in the Shield the variations in surface heat flow are dominated by the crustal heat generation. Horizontal variations in mantle heat flow are too small to be resolved by heat flow measurements. Different methods constrain the mantle heat flow to be in the range of 12–18 mW·m–2. Most of the heat flow anomalies (high and low) are due to variations in crustal composition and structure. The vertical distribution of radioelements is characterized by a differentiation index (DI) that measures the ratio of the surface to the average crustal heat generation in a province. Determination of mantle temperatures requires the knowledge of both the surface heat flow and DI. Mantle temperatures increase with an increase in surface heat flow but decrease with an increase in DI. Stabilization of the crust is achieved by crustal differentiation that results in decreasing temperatures in the lower crust. Present mantle temperatures inferred from xenolith studies and variations in mantle seismic P-wave velocity (Pn) from seismic refraction surveys are consistent with geotherms calculated from heat flow. These results emphasize that deep lithospheric temperatures do not always increase with an increase in the surface heat flow. The dense data coverage that has been achieved in the Canadian Shield allows some discrimination between temperature and composition effects on seismic velocities in the lithospheric mantle.

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