A reference Earth model for the heat-producing elements and associated geoneutrino flux

Yu Huang, Viacheslav Chubakov, Fabio Mantovani, Roberta L. Rudnick, William F. McDonough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Citations (Scopus)


The recent geoneutrino experimental results from KamLAND (Kamioka Liquid Scintillator Antineutrino Detector) and Borexino detectors reveal the usefulness of analyzing the Earth's geoneutrino flux, as it provides a constraint on the strength of the radiogenic heat power, and this, in turn, provides a test of compositional models of the bulk silicate Earth (BSE). This flux is dependent on the amount and distribution of heat-producing elements (HPEs: U, Th, and K) in the Earth's interior. We have developed a geophysically based, three-dimensional global reference model for the abundances and distributions of HPEs in the BSE. The structure and composition of the outermost portion of the Earth, the crust and underlying lithospheric mantle, are detailed in the reference model; this portion of the Earth has the greatest influence on the geoneutrino fluxes. The reference model combines three existing geophysical models of the global crust and yields an average crustal thickness of 34.4 ± 4.1 km in the continents and 8.0 ± 2.7 km in the oceans, and a total mass (in 10 22 kg) of oceanic, continental, and bulk crust is 0.67 ± 0.23, 2.06 ± 0.25, and 2.73 ± 0.48, respectively. In situ seismic velocity provided by CRUST 2.0 allows us to estimate the average composition of the deep continental crust by using new and updated compositional databases for amphibolite and granulite facies rocks in combination with laboratory ultrasonic velocities measurements. An updated xenolithic peridotite database is used to represent the average composition of continental lithospheric mantle. Monte Carlo simulation is used to predict the geoneutrino flux at 16 selected locations and to track the asymmetrical uncertainties of radiogenic heat power due to the log-normal distributions of HPE concentrations in crustal rocks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2003-2029
Number of pages27
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Jun 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Monte Carlo simulation
  • bulk silicate Earth composition
  • deep crust composition
  • geoneutrino flux
  • heat producing element
  • radiogenic heat power
  • reference crustal model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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