EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Towards a global lithospheric thermal model

Sheona Masterton1, Samuel Cheyney1, Chris Green1,2, and Peter Webb
Sheona Masterton et al.
  • 1Getech, Leeds, UK (
  • 2School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

Temperature and heat flow are key parameters for understanding the potential for source rock maturation in sedimentary basins. Knowledge of the thermal structure of the lithosphere in both a regional and local context can provide important constraints for modelling basin evolution through time.

In recent years, global coverage of heat flow data constraints have enhanced scientific understanding of the thermal state of the lithosphere. However, sample bias and variability in sampling methods continues to be a major obstacle to heat flow-derived isotherm prediction, particularly in frontier areas where data are often sparse or poorly constrained. Consideration and integration of alternative approaches to predict temperature at depth may allow interpolation of surface heat flow in such data poor areas.   

We have attempted to integrate three independent approaches to modelling temperature with depth. The first approach is based on heat flow observations, in which a 1D steady-state model of the lithosphere is constructed from quality-assessed surface heat flow data, crustal thickness estimates and associated lithospheric thermal properties. The second approach is based on terrestrial (airborne, ground and shipborne) magnetic data, in which the maximum depth of magnetisation within the lithosphere is estimated using a de-fractal method and used as a proxy for Curie temperature depth. The third approach is based on satellite magnetic data and estimates the thickness of the magnetic layer within the lithosphere based on the varying amplitudes of satellite magnetic data, accounting for global variations in crustal magnetisation. Curie temperature depth results from each of these approaches have been integrated into a single global grid, then used to calculate temperature-depth variations through the crust.

We have evaluated our isotherm predictions by comparing them with temperature-depth control points and undertook qualitative and quantitative analyses of discrepancies that exist between different modelling approaches; this has provided insights into the origin of such discrepancies that can be integrated into our models to generate a better controlled global temperature-depth result.  

We present details of our methodology and the results of our integrated studies. We demonstrate areas where the independent results are in good agreement, providing vital information for high-level basin screening. We also highlight areas of disagreement and suggest possible causes for these discrepancies and potential resolutions.

How to cite: Masterton, S., Cheyney, S., Green, C., and Webb, P.: Towards a global lithospheric thermal model, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-19005,, 2020