Thermal anomalies that have important geodynamic implications may not always be recognizable in present-day surface heat-flow patterns. The masking occurs because surface heat flow responds to mantle heat, crustal radioactivity, magmatism, crustal deformation, burial and/or exhumation, and fluid movement, any of which may offset the thermal effects of the others. Sedimentary basins are particularly suited to partitioning heat flow into its various components. We use Taranaki basin, New Zealand, as an example. It has a relatively undeformed (since the Miocene) western region that is used as a control against which the tectonically active eastern region can be compared. Although surface heat flow is roughly constant across Taranaki basin, basal heat flow modeled at lower crustal–upper mantle depths varies by a factor of two or more. A combination of low heat-producing crust and the heat sink effects of crustal thickening in the eastern region can account for the basal heat-flow anomalies. The tectonic thermal anomaly would have gone unnoticed without the aid of detailed basin analysis and thermal modeling.

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