- Open Access
Thermal conductivities, thermal diffusivities, and volumetric heat capacities of core samples obtained from the Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project (JFAST)
© Lin et al.; licensee Springer. 2014
- Received: 26 February 2014
- Accepted: 20 May 2014
- Published: 5 June 2014
We report thermal conductivities, thermal diffusivities, and volumetric heat capacities determined by a transient plane heat source method for four whole-round core samples obtained by the Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project/Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 343. These thermal properties are necessary for the interpretation of a temperature anomaly detected in the vicinity of the plate boundary fault that ruptured during the 2011 Tohoku-Oki earthquake and other thermal processes observed within the Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project temperature observatory. Results of measured thermal conductivities are consistent with those independently measured using a transient line source method and a divided bar technique. Our measurements indicate no significant anisotropy in either thermal conductivity or thermal diffusivity.
- Thermal conductivity
- Thermal diffusivity
- Volumetric heat capacity
- Core sample measurement
The 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku-Oki, Japan, earthquake produced a maximum coseismic slip of >50 m near the Japan Trench in the Miyagi-Oki region, triggering a huge tsunami (Fujiwara et al. 2011; Lay et al. 2011). To understand the reasons for the large displacement of the coseismic slip, the Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project (JFAST, Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Expedition 343 and 343T) drilled through the plate boundary fault zone that ruptured during the Tohoku-Oki earthquake. This work was undertaken by the drilling vessel (D/V) Chikyu, approximately 1 year after the earthquake at Site C0019 (Mori et al. 2012; Chester et al. 2012), and one of the principal objectives of JFAST was to detect the residual temperature anomaly induced by the coseismic frictional heat during the earthquake (Fulton et al. 2013).
where C is the volumetric heat capacity. Obtaining measurements of any two of these parameters allows the third to be calculated.
The previous works measuring the physical properties of rocks across the Tohoku-Oki fault zone have focused on thermal conductivity (which is a measure of a material’s ability to transfer heat and has a primary control on the background geothermal gradient) (Expedition 343/343T Scientists 2013b; Fulton et al. 2013). Determination of thermal conductivity in these studies consisted of making 45 line source measurements on split half cores (Expedition 343/343T Scientists 2013b) and 38 measurements made using a divided bar technique on rock chips (Fulton et al. 2013). Details of the divided bar thermal conductivity measurements are given in Sass et al. (1984). These techniques, however, are not suited to measuring thermal diffusivity, a key parameter for understanding the thermal decay associated with frictional heating or other transient disturbances.
In this study, we report both thermal conductivity and thermal diffusivity measurements performed on four whole-round core samples retrieved from the JFAST borehole, using a transient plane heat source method (also known as a hot-disk method). Values of thermal conductivity measured using this technique are then compared to the values previously measured. Relationships between thermal conductivity and thermal diffusivity are also found, and these allow extrapolation of the thermal properties with depth from the more extensively measured thermal conductivity values.
JFAST and core samples
Sample ID, core and section number, depth, and associated basic physical properties
Sample ID: core and section number, depth in the section (cm)
Wet bulk density (g cm−3)
Grain density (g cm−3)
No. 1: 1R-1, 18-34
1, slope facies or wedge sediments
No. 2: 5R-1, 102-117
3, gray mudstone
No. 3: 13R-1, 50-60
3, gray mudstone
No. 4: 19R-2, 73-86
5, brown mudstone
Measurements of thermal conductivity and thermal diffusivity
The thermal constants analyzer TPS 1500 has two measurement modes. The first assumes that the test sample is isotropic and calculates both bulk thermal conductivity and bulk thermal diffusivity. The second mode allows anisotropic measurements and gives values of thermal conductivity and thermal diffusivity in both the radial direction (a horizontal direction in the original position of the core samples) and the axial direction (vertical direction). We obtained measurements using both modes, as discussed below.
The thermal property measurements were conducted at room temperature (at approximately 23°C) and at atmospheric pressure. Using the measurement apparatus referred to above and the environmental conditions specified, the reported measurement precision (reproducibility) for thermal conductivity, thermal diffusivity, and volumetric heat capacity using the bulk mode have been found to be better than 2%, 5%, and 7%, respectively (Hot Disk 2007a). In addition, both precision for thermal conductivity and thermal diffusivity using the anisotropic mode have been found to be 5% (Hot Disk 2007b).
Measurement results using hot-disk method in the four whole-round core samples and fused silica
Ax TC Wm−1K−1
Ax TD 10−7m2s−1
Rad TC Wm−1K−1
Rad TD 10−7m2s−1
1.32 ± 0.00
8.27 ± 0.00
1.60 ± 0.00
1.32 ± 0.01
8.27 ± 0.07
1.33 ± 0.01
8.30 ± 0.07
0.92 ± 0.01
3.16 ± 0.09
2.92 ± 0.09
0.90 ± 0.00
3.16 ± 0.01
0.94 ± 0.00
3.29 ± 0.00
1.14 ± 0.01
3.80 ± 0.04
2.99 ± 0.01
1.11 ± 0.01
3.72 ± 0.04
1.15 ± 0.02
3.84 ± 0.08
1.05 ± 0.01
3.52 ± 0.08
2.99 ± 0.03
1.05 ± 0.02
3.50 ± 0.08
1.03 ± 0.05
3.45 ± 0.16
1.08 ± 0.02
4.43 ± 0.06
2.44 ± 0.04
1.11 ± 0.04
4.61 ± 0.35
1.07 ± 0.03
4.46 ± 0.03
Prior to conducting thermal measurements, the four core samples were used for anelastic strain recovery (ASR) measurements to estimate in situ stress, using a non-destructive onboard measurement (e.g., Lin et al. 2006). To prepare our samples for measuring, they were saturated in water that had roughly the same NaCl solution concentration as sea water, for a period of approximately 24 h. The core samples were then cut into two pieces perpendicular to the core axis and the thin hot disk was sandwiched between them. The sample size used had a diameter of approximately 56 mm, (about four times the diameter of the heating plate), and each sample had a thickness of >20 mm. Based on a time window of 20 s and measured thermal diffusivities of approximately 5 × 10−7 m2s−1, a thermal length of about 6 mm was obtained, which confirmed that our sample size was sufficiently large enough to approximate a half space.
Measurement results and discussion
The thermal conductivity values found in our study are consistent with the values of 45 measurements made onboard, which were conducted on split cores using a TeKa thermal conductivity half-space probe (TeKa Thermophysical Instruments - Geothermal Investigation, Berlin Germany; Expedition 343/343T Scientists 2013c), and of 38 discrete samples were measured using a divided bar system (Fulton et al. 2013) (Figure 4A). However, a significantly higher thermal conductivity value (approximately 1.6 Wm−1K−1) was measured using the line heat source method for a chert core sample obtained from approximately 837 mbsf in lithologic unit 7 (Figure 4A).
The thermal diffusivity bulk measurements on the four core samples varied between 3.2 and 4.4 × 10−7 m2s−1, and some variations are greater than the reported measurement precision of different samples (Table 2 and Figure 4B). The thermal diffusivity at the shallowest depth of approximately 177 mbsf in lithologic unit 1 (slope facies or wedge sediments) is lower, and largely reflects the influence of lower thermal conductivity therein. The other three thermal diffusivity values were determined on mudstone samples taken from 697 to 828 mbsf. These samples are considered likely to be representative of many of the depth intervals that were monitored using closely spaced temperature sensors in the adjacent observatory borehole (Fulton et al. 2013). The average thermal diffusivity for these three samples was found to be 3.92 ± 0.5 × 10−7 m2s−1. Inverse modeling of the frictional heat signal observed in the JFAST observatory utilized this same range of diffusivities to estimate the amount of heat energy dissipated at this location during the earthquake (Fulton et al. 2013).
The volumetric heat capacity of the four samples showed similar values for the upper three core samples but a significantly lower value for the deepest core sample (Table 2 and Figure 4C). The deepest core sample within lithologic unit 5 (brown mudstone) consists mainly of subducting pelagic clays and clearly shows a lower grain density, suggesting a different solid composition, for example, more clay minerals and volcaniclastic grains. It is considered that the lower volumetric heat capacity and higher thermal diffusivity of the deepest core sample could be attributed to these differences. The average and standard deviation of the three deepest samples is 2.80 ± 0.32 MJm−3K−1, and this range of values was used in the inversion of the analysis of the JFAST observatory frictional heat anomaly (Fulton et al. 2013).
Very slight differences were seen between the anisotropic measurements of thermal conductivity and thermal diffusivity in both the axial and radial directions. The maximum difference of the average values of thermal conductivity in both directions was 0.04 Wm−1K−1, corresponding to approximately 4% of their thermal conductivity values of approximately 1 Wm−1K−1 for the no. 2 sample. These values are less than the 5% level of measurement precision in the anisotropic measurement mode. In addition, the differences between thermal diffusivity in the two directions were similar. In theory, the anisotropic features of thermal diffusivity should be similar to those of thermal conductivity because the volumetric heat capacity is a scalar. It is therefore considered that anisotropy of no more than 5% exists in the thermal conductivity and thermal diffusivity of the four JFAST core samples.
Measured results of thermal conductivities and estimated values of thermal diffusivities and volumetric heat capacities
Depth interval of the unit (mbsf)
Depth interval of samples in the unit (mbsf)
Number of data
Bulk measurement values (TC) and predicted values (TD and VHC)b
0.94 ± 0.09
3.02 ± 0.46
3.15 ± 0.21
1.18 ± 0.10
4.10 ± 0.54
2.89 ± 0.14
1.16 ± 0.08
3.99 ± 0.40
2.91 ± 0.10
1.16 ± 0.09
4.01 ± 0.48
2.91 ± 0.12
1.14 ± 0.06
3.99 ± 0.31
2.88 ± 0.15
1.08 ± 0.06
3.60 ± 0.32
3.01 ± 0.09
1.40 ± 0.17
5.29 ± 0.89
2.67 ± 0.16
Estimation of thermal diffusivity using thermal conductivity at JFAST site
Correlation between thermal conductivity and thermal diffusivity
(for sand by Goto and Matsubayashi 2008)
Estimation of thermal diffusivity
We determined thermal conductivities, thermal diffusivities, and volumetric heat capacities using a transient plane heat source method at atmospheric pressure, in room-temperature conditions, and in a fully saturated state. The four whole-round core samples used were obtained as part of the Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project (JFAST), with the primary objective of interpreting the frictional heat signal from slip during the 2011 (Mw 9.0) Tohoku-Oki earthquake in terms of coseismic friction (Fulton et al. 2013). Characterization of all three thermal properties is important for properly interpreting the detected temperature anomaly in the vicinity of the plate boundary fault and for the analysis of other thermal processes observed within the JFAST observatory temperature data. The measured thermal conductivities were found to be consistent with those independently measured using a transient line source method for 45 half-core samples in an onboard laboratory and using a divided bar technique on 38 rock-chips samples in a shore-based laboratory. We examined several previously proposed empirical equations describing relationships between thermal diffusivity and thermal conductivity for ocean sediments, by applying our data obtained from using the transient plane heat source method. We then used these results to estimate the thermal diffusivities and the volumetric heat capacities of the 45 half-core samples and 38 rock-chips samples by their thermal conductivities, covering the whole-cored depth range of the JFAST borehole. Our measurements reveal less than 5% anisotropy in terms of thermal conductivity and thermal diffusivity (the detectable limit of the measurement apparatus). The extrapolations suggest little variation in any of the three thermal properties within several tens of meters above the plate boundary fault (where a 0.31°C temperature anomaly has been observed). The parameters used to model and interpret this signal in terms of coseismic frictional heating utilized the measurement values presented here. Our extrapolation of thermal diffusivity and volumetric heat capacity from empirical relationships with thermal conductivity suggests that the range of values used in the modeling are reasonable, as is the assumed general uniformity of values within the mudstones from approximately 800 to 820 mbsf.
Characterization of the three thermal properties and their possible variation with depth provides important constraints for further investigations of other thermal processes observed within the JFAST temperature observatory. For example, Fulton et al. (2013) reported that the characteristic recovery time of the drilling disturbance within the JFAST temperature data is spatially variable, with larger recovery times at around 765, 800, and 810 mbsf. These regions were thus interpreted as permeable zones with a greater infiltration of drilling fluids. Although further analysis is warranted and ongoing, our depth profiles of thermal properties reveal no large spatial variations that would obviously account for these observations, suggesting instead that they may indeed be influenced by the hydrogeologic structure.
The JFAST temperature data has provided a remarkable window into the subsurface thermal field across the plate boundary fault, at a time period of 16 to 25 months after the 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku-Oki earthquake. It is considered that characterization of the thermal property structure within the subsurface provides a context for further investigations into the hydrologic and thermal signals observed within the JFAST temperature data and the constraints on models of frictional heating and other thermal processes within the shallow subduction zone.
The core samples used in this study were provided by IODP expedition 343. The authors gratefully acknowledge the support provided by the Expedition 343/343T Scientists, D/V Chikyu drilling crew, and laboratory technicians. Part of this work was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research 21107006 (MEXT) and 25287134 (JSPS), Japan. PF was supported by the US Science Support Program of IODP and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
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