Minshull, T.A., Bartolome, R., Byrne, S. and Danobeitia, J.
Low heat flow from young oceanic lithosphere at the Middle America Trench off Mexico
Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 239, (1-2), . (doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2005.05.045).
Seismic reflection profiles across the Middle America Trench at 20°N show a high amplitude bottom simulating reflector interpreted as marking a phase transition between methane hydrate and free gas in the pore space of both accreted and trench sediments. We determine the depth of the hydrate-gas phase boundary in order to estimate the geothermal gradient and hence the heat flow beneath the trench and the frontal part of the accretionary wedge which overlies the downgoing plate. After correction for sedimentation, heat flow values in the trench and through the accretionary wedge are only about half of the values predicted by plate cooling models for the 10 Ma subducting lithosphere. There is no systematic correlation between heat flow in the accretionary wedge and distance from the trench. A comparison with heat flow predicted by a simple analytical model suggests that there is little shear heating from within or beneath the wedge, despite the high basal friction suggested by the large taper angle of the wedge. The geothermal gradient varies systematically along the margin and is negatively correlated with the frontal slope of the wedge. Some local peaks may be attributed to channelised fluid expulsion.
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