, Volume 99, Issue 1-4, pp 111-130

Geo-Neutrinos: A Systematic Approach to Uncertainties and Correlations

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Abstract

Geo-neutrinos emitted by heat-producing elements (U, Th and K) represent a unique probe of the Earth interior. The characterization of their fluxes is subject, however, to rather large and highly correlated uncertainties. The geochemical covariance of the U, Th and K abundances in various Earth reservoirs induces positive correlations among the associated geo-neutrino fluxes, and between these and the radiogenic heat. Mass-balance constraints in the Bulk Silicate Earth (BSE) tend instead to anti-correlate the radiogenic element abundances in complementary reservoirs. Experimental geo-neutrino observables may be further (anti)correlated by instrumental effects. In this context, we propose a systematic approach to covariance matrices, based on the fact that all the relevant geo-neutrino observables and constraints can be expressed as linear functions of the U, Th and K abundances in the Earth’s reservoirs (with relatively well-known coefficients). We briefly discuss here the construction of a tentative “geo-neutrino source model” (GNSM) for the U, Th, and K abundances in the main Earth reservoirs, based on selected geophysical and geochemical data and models (when available), on plausible hypotheses (when possible), and admittedly on arbitrary assumptions (when unavoidable). We use then the GNSM to make predictions about several experiments (“forward approach”), and to show how future data can constrain a posteriori the error matrix of the model itself (“backward approach”). The method may provide a useful statistical framework for evaluating the impact and the global consistency of prospective geo-neutrino measurements and Earth models.