International Heat Flow Commission [IHFC]
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Global Heat Flow

The present Global Heat Flow Data Base, compiled by Pollack et al. (1993), was a project initiated by the International Heat Flow Commission of the International Association of Seismology and Physics of the Earth's Interior (IASPEI). The new compilation provides a decade update of an earliear 1976 compilation. A description and analysis of the data set appears in: Pollack, H.N., Hurter, S.J., and Johnson, J.R., Heat flow from the earth's interior: analysis of the global data set, Reviews of Geophysics 31(3), 267-280, 1993.

Location of Heat Flow Sites

To FTP the Data Set

The global heat flow data base has been turned over to the US National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) for distribution. Click here to ftp the data set from NGDC.

Please note that the data set requires approximately 2,297,930 bytes when uncompressed. If you have any difficulty downloading or uncompressing the data set from NGDC, please send an email to Shaopeng Huang [], he will be happy to make the electronic file available at their site.

Next Compilation of Heat Flow Density

William D. Gosnold of the University of North Dakota has been appointed as interim custdodian of the global heat flow compilation. He has converted the global heat flow data set to spreadsheet format (Microsoft Excel) and stored it on a server at the University of North Dakota.

This map shows color-coded contours of the global distribution of heat flow at the surface of the Earth's crust. Major plate boundaries and continent outlines are also shown. The fundamental data embodied in this map are the more than 24,000 field measurements in both continental and oceanic terrains, supplemented by estimates of the heat flow in the unsurveyed regions. The estimates are based on empirically determined charactersitic values for the heat flux in various geological and tectonic settings. Observations of the oceanic heat flux have been corrected for heat loss by hydrothermal circulation through the oceanic crust. The global data set so assembled was then subjected to a spherical harmonic analysis. The map is a representation of the heat flow to spherical harmonic degree and order 12.

Activities 2007 - 2009

The IHFC heat flow data bank ( is currently located under the custody of William Gosnold at the University of North Dakota. It contains both marine and continental data. In the reporting period, there have been no submissions of new heat flow data to the database. Will Gosnold receives  inquiries or requests for assistance about once per week and responds  immediately.

During the IUGG general assembly in Perugia in 2007, the IHFC discussed the need for an update of this data bank since much data has been collected in various scientific projects but also by the hydrocarbon industry since the current data base was established . However, such an update would require funds on the order of 120 k - 150 k. Since the Perugia meeting, IHFC member Heinrich Villinger therefore explored available options for a funding of such a project by the German Science Foundation (DFG). However he obtained a somewhat discouraging response: Such an effort could be funded only if new and exiting results can be expected once the data base is in good shape and up-to-date. In our opinion, such an update would therefore need to include the proprietary industry data. The interest of industry in marine heat flow is slowly increasing but still not huge. Therefore, the commission will need to discuss whether it will be realistic to set up an industry consortium to collect appropriate funds. This discussion has not come to an end yet, and former heat flow researchers now working for the hydrocarbon industry are going to be contacted for advice and help.

A major new development is that we may find a solution to this long standing issue of lacking support for managing the data base. Will Gosnold is planning  to meet with representatives from GOOGLE during the AGU Fall Meeting 2008. This meeting was organized by David  Blackwell who has received a major financial contribution from GOOGLE to develop information on geothermal energy. Talks with GOOGLE representatives indicate that they may be willing to commit a substantial amount of funding to support the data base and to include it on their website. GOOGLE is promoting geothermal energy as a principle energy source for the future, and linking the heat flow data base with their program would provide a sustainable platform for the IHFC data base.

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