The terrestrial heat flow is defined as the quantity of heat escaping per unit time from the Earth's interior across each unit area of the Earth's solid surface. The quantity varies from place to place over the surface of the Earth, as well as with time throughout Earth history. The total heat being lost from the Earth at a given time is the integral of the heat flow taken over the entire surface of earth. The heat flow from the continents is therefore but a part of the larger picture of global heat loss, indeed the lesser part when compared to the heat loss through the floor of the ocean basins. (Pollack 1980, Sclater et al 1980, Davies 1980). This is so not only because of the lesser continental area, but also because of the generally smaller heat flow found on the continents than in the ocean basins. Thus, a full discussion of the thermal regime of the Earth and the mechanisms by which it exhausts heat from the interior must center on the heat loss through the oceans, a topic which lies beyond the scope of this review. Nonetheless, because of the geological antiquity of at least
Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences – Annual Reviews
Published: May 1, 1982
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