Testing the robustness and limitations of 0-1 Ma absolute paleointensity data

Ziegler, LB, Constable CG, Johnson CL.  2008.  Testing the robustness and limitations of 0-1 Ma absolute paleointensity data. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors. 170:34-45.

Date Published:



cooling-rate, earths, East Pacific Rise, geomagnetic secular variation, geomagnetism, intensity, kyr, magnetic-field, model, paleointensity, Paleomagnetic secular, paleomagnetism, records, submarine basaltic glass, time, variation


Absolute paleomagnetic field intensity data derived from thermally magnetized lavas and archeological objects provide information about past geomagnetic field behavior, but the average field strength, its variability, and the expected statistical distribution of these observations remain uncertain despite growing data sets. We investigate these issues for the 0-1 Ma field using data compiled in Perrin and Schnepp [Perrin, M., Schnepp, E., 2004. IAGA paleointensity database: distribution and quality of the data set. Phys. Earth Planet. Int. 147, 255-267], 1124 samples of heterogeneous quality and with restricted temporal and spatial coverage. We accommodate variable spatial sampling by using virtual axial dipole moments (VADM) in our analyses. Uneven temporal sampling results in biased estimates for the mean field and its statistical distribution. We correct for these effects using a bootstrap technique, and find an average VADM of 7.26 +/- 0.14 x 10(22) A m(2). The associated statistical distribution appears bimodal with a subsidiary peak at approximately 5 x 10(22) A m(2). We evaluate a range of potential sources for this behavior. We find no visible evidence for contamination by poor quality data when considering author-supplied uncertainties in the 0-1 Ma data set. The influence of material type is assessed using independent data compilations to compare Holocene data from lava flows, submarine basaltic glass (SBG), and archeological objects. The comparison to SBG is inconclusive because of dating issues, but paleointensity estimates from lavas are on average about 10% higher than for archeological materials and show greater dispersion. Only limited tests of geographic sampling bias are possible. We compare the large number of 0-0.55 Ma Hawaiian data to the global data set with no definitive results. The possibility of over-representation of typically low intensity excursional data is discounted because exclusion of transitional data still leaves a bimodal distribution. No direct test has allowed us to rule out the idea that the observed pdf results from a mixture of two distinct distributions corresponding to two identifiable intensity states for the magnetic field. We investigate an alternative possibility that we were simply unable to recover a hypothetically smoother underlying distribution with a time span of only 1 Myr and the resolution of the current data set. Simulations from a stochastic model based on the geomagnetic field spectrum demonstrate that long period intensity variations can have a strong impact on the observed distributions and could plausibly explain the apparent bimodality. Our 0-1 Ma distribution of VADMs is consistent with that obtained for average relative paleointensity records derived from sediments. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.