Assessing the dipolar signal in stacked paleointensity records using a statistical error model and geodynamo simulations

McMillan, DG, Constable CG, Parker RL.  2004.  Assessing the dipolar signal in stacked paleointensity records using a statistical error model and geodynamo simulations. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors. 145:37-54.

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accumulation rates, age errors, atlantic, chronostratigraphy, field, geomagnetic dipole moment, geomagnetic paleointensity, intensity, ka, paleomagnetism, sedimentary records, spectral analysis, stacking


Stacks of globally distributed relative paleointensity records from sediment cores are used to study temporal variations in the strength of the geomagnetic dipole. We assess the intrinsic accuracy and resolution of such stacks, which may be limited by errors in paleointensity, non-dipole field contributions, and the age scales assigned to each sediment core. Our approach employs two types of simulations. Numerical geodynamo models generate accurate predictions of time series of magnetic variations anywhere in the world. The predicted variations are then degraded using an appropriate statistical model to simulate expected age and paleointensity errors. A series of experiments identify the major contributors to error and loss of resolution in the resulting stacks. The statistical model simulates rock magnetic and measurement errors in paleointensity, and age errors due to finite sampling and approximations inherent in interpolation, incomplete or inaccurate tie point information, and sedimentation rate variations. Data sampling and interpolation to a designated age scale cause substantial decorrelation, and control the maximum level of agreement attainable between completely accurate records. The particular method of interpolation appears to have little effect on the coherence between accurate records, but denser tie point data improve the agreement. Age errors decorrelate geomagnetic signals, usually at shorter periods, although they can destroy coherence over a broad range of periods. The poor correlation between neighboring paleomagnetic records often observed in real data can be accounted for by age errors of moderate magnitude. In a global dataset of 20 records, modeled after the SINT800 compilation and spanning 300 kyr, our results show that dipole variations with periods longer than about 20 kyr can be recovered by the stacking process. Reasonable contributions to error in the paleointensity itself have a modest influence on the result, as do non-dipole field contributions whose effect is minor at periods longer than 10 kyr. Modest errors in the ages of tie points probably account for most of the degradation in geomagnetic signal. Stacked sedimentary paleomagnetic records can be improved by denser temporal sampling and careful selection of independent high-quality tie points. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.