Thermal rock propertiesHow thermal properties of rocks help us to understand Zealandia

Earth’s crust consists of a wide variety of rock types, which produce and conduct heat at different rates. Knowing how these thermal properties vary across Te Riu-a-Māui/Zealandia helps us understand how temperature increases (with depth) in the crust.


The boundary between two tectonic plates runs through Te Riu-a-Māui/Zealandia, resulting in an abundance of geological resources and geologic hazards threatening populated areas. Despite the importance of thermal properties for understanding geologic resources and hazards, much of what we know is limited in geographic extent or based on international studies. We need a national dataset of crustal rock thermal properties for New Zealand.

Our proof-of-concept study aims to

  • identify which rock units are representative of Te Riu-a-Māui/Zealandia’s crust, and to develop a plan for a multi-year research programme of analysing and recording thermal properties of hundreds of representative samples

To achieve this objective, we will


Initially, samples will be sourced from those stored in the National Petrology Reference Collection and the thermal properties data will be stored in the associated PETLAB database(external link). We will also analyse a subset of those representative rocks as a proof of concept trial.

Contribution to other reseach

What we find in the pilot and any subsequent studies will also contribute to research on:

Wairakei Rock Physics Laboratory

Samples will be analysed for density, porosity, thermal conductivity, specific heat capacity and thermal diffusivity at our Wairakei Rock Physics Laboratory.

Related Projects

Given the complex inter-linking of Te Riu-a-Māui/Zealandia’s geological processes, we expect this project to contribute to other GNS projects including:

Research project details

Pilot – six months

Funding platform

Global Change through Time Zealandia SSIF


In preparation

Programme leader

Matt Sagar