International Journal of Earth Sciences

, Volume 97, Issue 2, pp 289–306 | Cite as

Estimates of heat flow and heat production and a thermal model of the São Francisco craton

Original Paper


An updated analysis of geothermal data from the highland area of eastern Brazil has been carried out and the characteristics of regional variations in geothermal gradients and heat flow examined. The database employed includes results of geothermal measurements at 45 localities. The results indicate that the Salvador craton and the adjacent metamorphic fold belts northeastern parts of the study area are characterized by geothermal gradients in the range of 6–17°C/km. The estimated heat flow values fall in the range of 28–53 mW/m2, with low values in the cratonic area relative to the fold belts. On the other hand, the São Francisco craton and the intracratonic São Francisco sedimentary basin in the southwestern parts are characterized by relatively higher gradient values, in the range of 14–42°C/km, with the corresponding heat flow values falling in the range of 36–89 mW/m2. Maps of regional variations indicate that high heat flow anomaly in the São Francisco craton is limited to areas of sedimentary cover, to the west of the Espinhaço mountain belt. Crustal thermal models have been developed to examine the implications of the observed intracratonic variations in heat flow. The thermal models take into consideration variation of thermal conductivity with temperature as well as change of radiogenic heat generation with depth. Vertical distributions of seismic velocities were used in obtaining estimates of radiogenic heat production in crustal layers. Crustal temperatures are calculated based on a procedure that makes simultaneous use of the Kirchoff and Generalized Integral Transforms, providing thereby analytical solutions in 2D and 3D geometry. The results point to temperature variations of up to 300°C at the Moho depth, between the northern Salvador and southern São Francisco cratons. There are indications that differences in rheological properties, related to thermal field, are responsible for the contrasting styles of deformation patterns in the adjacent metamorphic fold belts.


Heat flow Heat production São Francisco craton Thermal models 



The present work has been carried out as part of Ph.D. thesis work of the first author. We thank Dr. Iris Escobar for facilities provided for geothermal studies. Absence of financial support for Geothermal Laboratory of Observatório Nacional prevents us from thanking the funding organizations for scientific research in Brazil.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Observatório NacionalRio de JaneiroBrazil

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