Millennial Variations of the Geomagnetic Field: from Data Recovery to Field Reconstruction

Donadini, F, Korte M, Constable C.  2010.  Millennial Variations of the Geomagnetic Field: from Data Recovery to Field Reconstruction. Space Science Reviews. 155:219-246.

Date Published:



archeomagnetism, boundary, core-mantle, dipole-moment, Earth: magnetic field evolution, earths magnetic-field, Holocene, lake-sediments, microwave, paleo-intensities, relative paleointensity, remanent magnetization, secular variation, thellier paleointensity experiments


Variations of the geomagnetic field over past millennia can be determined from archeomagnetic data and paleomagnetic sediment records. The resolution and validity of any field reconstruction depends on the reliability of such indirect measurements of past field values. Considerable effort is invested to ensure that the magnetic minerals carrying the ancient magnetization are good, if not ideal, recorders of the magnetic field. This is achieved by performing a wide array of rock magnetic and microscopy investigations, many of which are outlined here. In addition to data quality, the spatial and temporal distributions of archeomagnetic and sediment records play a significant role in the accuracy of past field reconstruction. Global field reconstructions enable studies of dynamic processes in Earth's core. They rely on data compilations which ideally include information about the quality of a measurement and provide a useful archive for selecting data with the best characteristics. There is, however, a trade off between the total number of reliable data and the geographic or temporal coverage. In this review we describe the various types of paleomagnetic recorders, and the kind of measurements that are performed to gather reliable geomagnetic field information. We show which modeling strategies are most suitable, and the main features of the field that can be derived from the resulting models. Finally, we discuss prospects for progress in this kind of research.