Magnetic power spectrum of the ocean crust on large scales

O'Brien, MS, Parker RL, Constable CG.  1999.  Magnetic power spectrum of the ocean crust on large scales. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 104:29189-29201.

Date Published:



anomalies, core, main geomagnetic-field, models, paleosecular variation, pole, vector


The geomagnetic power spectrum R-l is the squared magnetic field in each spherical harmonic degree averaged over a spherical surface. Satellite measurements have given reliable estimates of the spectrum for the part that originates in the core, but above I = 15, where the geomagnetic field arises primarily from crustal magnetization, there is considerable disagreement between various estimates derived from observation. Furthermore, several theoretical models for the spectrum disagree with each other and the data. We have examined observations from a different source, 5000-km-long Project Magnet aeromagnetic survey lines; we make new estimates of the spectrum which overlap with the wavelength interval accessible to the satellites. The usual way the spectrum is derived from observation is to construct a large spherical harmonic decomposition first, then square, weight, and add the Gauss coefficients in each degree, but this method cannot be applied to isolated flight lines. Instead, we apply a statistical technique based on an idea of McLeod and Coleman which relates the geomagnetic spectrum to the power and cross spectra of magnetic field components measured on the survey lines. Power spectra from the 17 aeromagnetic surveys, all of which were conducted over the oceans, are averaged together to improve geographic coverage and reduce variance, and the average spectra are then inverted for the geomagnetic spectrum R-l. Like most of the theoretical models, our spectrum exhibits a maximum, but at a wavelength of 100 km, about a factor of 2 smaller than the closest theoretical prediction. Our spectrum agrees quite well with the most recent estimates based on satellite observations in the range 20 less than or equal to l less than or equal to 50, but above l=50, our values increase slowly, while all the satellite data suggest a sharply rising curve. In this wavelength range we believe our measurements are more trustworthy. Further work is planned to confirm the accuracy of our spectrum when continental survey paths are included.