Carol A. Stein

Research Interests

My research covers a range of topics in plate tectonics dealing with the thermal and mechanical evolution of the lithosphere, with emphasis on using measurements of heat flow at the sea floor. Heat flow data provide a valuable constraint on the time-dependent thermal structure, and, hence, the evolution of the lithosphere. Thus, one can examine processes that perturb the zeroth order plate cooling to affect the evolution of the lithosphere, such as hot spots and hydrothermal circulation. My recent research efforts include:

1. Thermal evolution of oceanic lithosphere. I used heat flow and depth data as a function of lithospheric age to calculate a new reference model (GDH1 = Global Depth and Heat flow model) for oceanic lithosphere that better represents the average observed depth and heat flow with age. GDH1 predicts that the lithosphere is hotter at depth and thinner than previously assumed. Recent analysis of spatially filtered geoid slope data shows that there is an age-dependent signal which reflects lithospheric thermal evolution. These data are much better fit by a thin thermal plate than by a cooling halfspace.

2. Hydrothermal circulation. The large difference between the observed heat flow and the higher heat flow predicted from thermal models for young (< 50 Ma) crust is interpreted as heat lost by hydrothermal circulation. To transfer this much heat requires that the equivalent of the volume of the entire ocean cycles through the oceanic crust every few million years. I have used the heat flow data to better constrain the amount of hydrothermal heat loss and water circulation, showing that, on average, the amount of hydrothermal heat loss is primarily a function of age-dependent processes. My research includes aspects of examining how far fluid flows in the crust and the geochemical impact of hydrothermal circulation.

Personal Information
Personal Home Page

Selected recent publications:

Hutnak, M., Fisher, A.T., Harris, R., Stein, C., Wang, K., Spinelli,
G., Schindler, M., Villinger, H., and E. Silver, Large heat and fluid
fluxes driven through mid-plate outcrops on ocean crust, Nature
Geoscience, Published online: 01 August 2008; doi:10.1038/ngeo264, 2008.

Stein, C.A., and R. P. Von Herzen, Potential effects of hydrothermal
circulation and magmatism on heat flow at hotspot swells, in Foulger,
G. R., and Jurdy, D. M. (eds.), Plates, Plumes, and Planetary
Processes, Geol. Soc. Am. Sp. Paper. 430, 261-274, doi:
10.1130/2007.2430(13), 2007.

Fisher, A.T., Stein, C.A. , Harris, R.N., Wang, K., Silver, E.A., Pfender, M., Hutnak, M., Cherkaoui, A., Bodzin, R. and Villinger, H., 2003. Abrupt thermal transition reveals hydrothermal boundary and role of seamounts within the Cocos Plate.
Geophysical Research Letters , 30: doi10.1029/
2002GL016766.

Stein, C.A. and Stein, S., 2003. Mantle plumes: heat-flow near Iceland. Astronomy and Geophysics , 44: 8-10.

DeLaughter, J., Stein, S. and Stein, C. , 1999. Extraction of the lithospheric cooling signal from oceanwide geoid data. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 174: 173-181.