Geoid data and thermal structure of the oceanic lithosphere

W. Philip Richardson*, Seth Stein, Carol A. Stein, Maria T. Zuber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


A long‐standing question is whether old oceanic lithosphere continues cooling as the boundary layer of a halfspace or approaches thermal equilibrium, as modeled by a finite thickness plate. Although the latter is the most direct inference from seafloor depths and heat flow, other explanations have been proposed. We investigate this issue using published results for the derivative of the oceanic geoid with age estimated from geoid offsets across fracture zones. Such data have not been used extensively in analyses of the thermal evolution of the lithosphere, primarily because they are inconsistent with two commonly used thermal models: a halfspace or a 125‐km‐thick plate. Recent studies, however, find that depth and heat flow data are better fit by a thinner (95 km) plate model. We thus compile published geoid slope results, and find that these data, though scattered, can discriminate between the models. Geoid slope changes with age, rather than being constant as predicted for a cooling halfspace. This variation is greater than predicted for a thick plate and is better fit by a thin plate. Geoid data should thus be useful for improving thermal models of the lithosphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1913-1916
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 15 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Geoid data and thermal structure of the oceanic lithosphere'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this