Proposals to lay fibre-optic communication systems on the sea floor have prompted renewed interest in the thermal properties of marine sediments. Of particular interest is the recognition of rapid variations in the thermal conductivity of near-surface sediments.

The thermal conductivity of non-cohesive sediments is investigated and shown to be adequately expressed by a simple geometric equation using volumetric and conductivity values for the components. Similar results pertain for previously reported measurements on cohesive sediments.

Electrical formation factor is known to be related to porosity for most marine sediments, and it is shown that the electrical and thermal parameters may in turn be related through this common parameter. This opens the way for the use of continuous electrical profiling as a practical and relatively inexpensive means of mapping lateral variations in the thermal conductivity of surface sediments.

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