Urey ratio and the structure and evolution of Earth's mantle



[1] The Urey ratio describes the contribution of internal heat production to planetary-scale energy balance, and knowing this thermal budget for Earth is essential to understand its long-term evolution. Internal heat production is provided by the decay of radiogenic elements, whose budget is constrained by geochemical models of Earth. Understanding the thermal budget thus requires contributions from both geophysics and geochemistry. The purpose of this review is to elucidate various geochemical and geophysical arguments and to delineate the most likely thermal budget of Earth. While the bulk Earth Urey ratio is probably ∼0.35, the convective Urey ratio is estimated to be ∼0.2. That is, only ∼20% of convective heat flux seems to originate from radiogenic elements at present, so the rest should be supported by secular cooling. A likely scenario for Earth's thermal history indicates that the peculiarity of today's significant imbalance between heat production and heat loss may result from the initiation of plate tectonics in the early Earth.