Heat Transport Processes in the Earth's Crust

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The heat of the Earth derives from internal and external sources. A heat balance shows that most of the heat provided by external sources is re-emitted by long-wavelength heat radiation and that the dominant internal sources are original heat and heat generated by decay of unstable radioactive isotopes. Understanding of the thermal regime of the Earth requires appreciation of properties and mechanisms for heat generation, storage, and transport. Both experimental and indirect methods are available for inferring the corresponding rock properties. Heat conduction is the dominant transport process in the Earth's crust, except for settings where appreciable fluid flow provides a mechanism for heat advection. For most crustal and mantle rocks, heat radiation becomes significant only at temperatures above 1200°C.

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