Temperature Model in Support of the U.S. Geological Survey National Crustal Model for Seismic Hazard Studies

Open-File Report 2019-1121



The U.S. Geological Survey National Crustal Model (NCM) is being developed to assist with earthquake hazard and risk assessment by supporting estimates of ground shaking in response to an earthquake. The period-dependent intensity and duration of shaking depend upon the three-dimensional seismic velocity, seismic attenuation, and density distribution of a region, which in turn is governed to a large degree by geology and how that geology behaves under varying temperatures and pressures.

A three-dimensional temperature model is presented here to support the estimation of physical parameters within the U.S. Geological Survey NCM. The crustal model is defined by a geological framework consisting of various lithologies with distinct mineral compositions. A temperature model is needed to calculate mineral density and bulk and shear modulus as a function of position within the crust. These properties control seismic velocity and impedance, which are needed to accurately estimate earthquake travel times and seismic amplitudes in earthquake hazard analyses. The temperature model is constrained by observations of surface temperature, temperature gradient, and conductivity, inferred Moho temperature and depth, and assumed conductivity at the base of the crust. The continental plate is assumed to have heat production that decreases exponentially with depth and thermal conductivity that exponentially changes from a surface value to 3.6 watts per meter-Kelvin at the Moho. The oceanic plate cools as a half-space with a geotherm dependent on plate age. Under these conditions, and the application of observed surface heat production, predicted Moho temperatures match Moho temperatures inferred from seismic P-wave velocities, on average. As has been noted in previous studies, high crustal temperatures are found in the western United States, particularly beneath areas of recent volcanism. In the central and eastern United States, elevated temperatures are found from southeast Texas, into the Mississippi Embayment, and up through Wisconsin. A USGS ScienceBase data release that supports this report is available and consists of grids covering the NCM across the conterminous United States, for example, surface temperature and temperature gradient, that are needed to produce temperature profiles.

Suggested Citation

Boyd, O.S., 2020, Temperature model in support of the U.S. Geological Survey National Crustal Model for seismic hazard studies: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2019–1121, 15 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20191121.

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Temperature Formulation
  • Surface Temperature
  • Moho Temperature
  • Surface Temperature Gradient and Conductivity
  • Deep Crustal Conductivity
  • Subsurface Temperature
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Temperature model in support of the U.S. Geological Survey National Crustal Model for seismic hazard Ssudies
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2019-1121
DOI 10.3133/ofr20191121
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Geologic Hazards Science Center
Description Report: iv, 15 p.; Data Release
Online Only (Y/N) Y
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