Geomagnetic-Field Models Incorporating Frozen-Flux Constraints

Constable, CG, Parker RL, Stark PB.  1993.  Geomagnetic-Field Models Incorporating Frozen-Flux Constraints. Geophysical Journal International. 113:419-433.

Date Published:



core mantle boundary, earths magnetic-field, frozen-flux model, geomagnetic field, inference, magsat data, motions, secular variation, top


Techniques for modelling the geomagnetic field at the surface of Earth's core often penalize contributions at high spherical harmonic degrees to reduce the effect of mapping crustal fields into the resulting field model at the core-mantle boundary (CMB). Ambiguity in separating the observed field into crustal and core contributions makes it difficult to assign error bounds to core field models, and this makes it hard to test hypotheses that involve pointwise values of the core field. The frozen-flux hypothesis, namely that convective terms dominate diffusive terms in the magnetic-induction equation, requires that the magnetic flux through every patch on the core surrounded by a zero contour of the radial magnetic field remains constant, although the shapes, areas and locations (but not the topology) of these patches may change with time. Field models exactly satisfying the conditions necessary for the hypothesis have not yet been constructed for the early part of this century. We show that such models must exist, so testing the frozen-flux hypothesis becomes the question of whether the models satisfying it are geophysically unsatisfactory on other grounds, for example because they are implausibly rough or complicated. We introduce an algorithm to construct plausible fleld models satisfying the hypothesis, and present such models for epochs 1945.5 and 1980. Our algorithm is based on a new parametrization of the field in terms of its radial component B(r) at the CMB. The model consists of values of B(r) at a finite set of points on the CMB, together with a rule for interpolating the values to other points. The interpolation rule takes the specified points to be the vertices of a spherical triangle tessellation of the CMB, with B(r) varying linearly in the gnomonic projections of the spherical triangles onto planar triangles in the planes tangent to the centroids of the spherical triangles. This parametrization of B(r) provides a direct means of constraining the integral invariants required by the frozen-flux hypothesis. Using this parametrization, we have constructed field models satisfying the frozen-flux hypothesis for epochs 1945.5 and 1980, while fitting observatory and survey data for 1945.5 and Magsat data for 1980. We use the better constrained 1980 CMB field model as a reference for 1945.5: we minimize the departure of the 1945.5 CMB field model from a regularized 1980 CMB field model, while constraining the 1945.5 model to have the same null-flux curves and flux through those curves as the 1980 model. The locations, areas and shapes of the curves are allowed to change. The resulting 1945.5 CMB field model is nearly as smooth as that for 1980, fits the data adequately, and satisfies the conditions necessary for the frozen-flux hypothesis.