A North Pole thermal anomaly? Evidence from new and existing heat flow measurements from the central Arctic Ocean

G.E. Shephard, Steffen Wiers, Evgenia Bazhenova, Lara F. Pérez, Luz María Mejía, Carina Johansson, Martin Jakobsson, Matt O'Regan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Constraining the thermal evolution of the Arctic Ocean is hampered by notably sparse heat flow measurements and a complex tectonic history. Previous results from the Lomonosov Ridge in the vicinity of the North Pole, and the adjacent central Amundsen Basin reveal varied values, including those higher than expected considering plate cooling or simple uniform stretching models. Furthermore, in the vicinity of the North Pole an anomalously slow velocity perturbation exists in upper mantle seismic tomography models. However, whether these observations are related to a thermal anomaly in the mantle remains unknown. We present new heat flow results gathered from 17 sediment cores acquired during the “Arctic Ocean 2016” and “SWERUS-C3” expeditions on the Swedish icebreaker Oden. Three sites located on oceanic lithosphere in the Amundsen Basin between 7°W-71E° reveal surface thermal conductivity of 1.07–1.26 W/mK and heat flow in the order of 71–95 mW/m 2, in line-with or slightly higher (1–21 mW/m 2) than expected from oceanic heat flow curves. These results contrast with published results from further east in the Amundsen Basin, which indicated surface heat flow values up to 2 times higher than predicted from oceanic crustal cooling models. Heat flow of 49–61 mW/m 2 was recovered from the Amerasia Basin. Sites from the submerged continental fragments of the Lomonosov Ridge and Marvin Spur recovered heat flow in the order of 53–76 and 51–69 mW/m 2 respectively. When considering the additional potential surface heat flux from radiogenic heat production in the crust, these variable measurements are broadly in line with predictions from uniform extension models for continental crust. A seismically imaged upper mantle velocity anomaly in the central Arctic Ocean may arise from a combination of compositional and thermal variations but requires additional investigation. Disentangling surface heat flow contributions from crustal, lithospheric and mantle processes, including variable along-ridge rifting rates and timing, density and phase changes, conductive and advective dynamics, and regional tectonics, requires further analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-181
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Geodynamics
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • Amundsen Basin
  • Eurasia Basin
  • Heat flow
  • Lomonosov Ridge
  • North Pole
  • Plate tectonics

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 3: Energy Resources


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