Heat Flow, Heat Transfer And Lithosphere Rheology In Geothermal Areas- Features And Examples

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Journal Article: Heat Flow, Heat Transfer And Lithosphere Rheology In Geothermal Areas- Features And Examples

Surface heat flow measurements over active geothermal systems indicate strongly positive thermal anomalies. Whereas in "normal" geothermal settings, the surface heat flow is usually below 100-120 mW m- 2, in active geothermal areas heat flow values as high as several watts per meter squared can be found. Systematic interpretation of heat flow patterns sheds light on heat transfer mechanisms at depth on different lateral, depth and time scales. Borehole temperature profiles in active geothermal areas show various signs of subsurface fluid movement, depending on position in the active system. The heat transfer regime is dominated by heat advection (mainly free convection). The onset of free convection depends on various factors, such as permeability, temperature gradient and fluid properties. The features of heat transfer are different for single or two-phase flow. Characteristic heat flow and heat transfer features in active geothermal systems are demonstrated by examples from Iceland, Italy, New Zealand and the USA. Two main factors affect the rheology of the lithosphere in active geothermal areas: steep temperature gradients and high pore fluid pressures. Combined with lithology and structure, these factors result in a rheological zonation with important consequences both for geodynamic processes and for the exploitation of geothermal energy. As a consequence of anomalously high temperature, the mechanical lithosphere is thin and its total strength can be reduced by almost one order of magnitude with respect to the average strength of continental lithosphere of comparable age and thickness. The top of the brittle/ductile transition is located within the upper crust at depths less than 10 km, acts as the root zone of listric normal faults in extensional environments and, at least in some cases, is visible on seismic reflection lines. These structural and rheological features are well illustrated in the Larderello geothermal field in Tuscany.

G. Ranalli and L. Rybach

Published Journal 
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 2005

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G. Ranalli,L. Rybach. 2005. Heat Flow, Heat Transfer And Lithosphere Rheology In Geothermal Areas- Features And Examples. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research. (!) .

Related Geothermal Exploration Activities
Activities (5)

Areas (5)
  1. Geysers Area

  2. International Geothermal Area Iceland

  3. International Geothermal Area Italy

  4. International Geothermal Area New Zealand

  5. Unspecified
Regions (0)