Publications

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2018
Davies, CJ, Constable CG.  2018.  Searching for geomagnetic spikes in numerical dynamo simulations. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 504:72-83.   10.1016/j.epsl.2018.09.037   AbstractWebsite

We use numerical dynamo simulations to investigate rapid changes in geomagnetic field intensity. The work is motivated by paleomagnetic observations of 'geomagnetic spikes', events where the field intensity rose and then fell by a factor of 2-3 over decadal timescales and a confined spatial region. No comparable events have been found in the historical record and so geomagnetic spikes may contain new and important information regarding the operation of the geodynamo. However, they are also controversial because uncertainties and resolution limitations in the available data hinder efforts to define their spatiotemporal characteristics. This has led to debate over whether such extreme events can originate in Earth's liquid core. Geodynamo simulations produce high spatio-temporal resolution intensity information, but must be interpreted with care since they cannot yet run at the conditions of Earth's liquid core. We employ reversing and non-reversing geodynamo simulations run at different physical conditions and consider various methods of scaling the results to allow comparison with Earth. In each simulation we search for 'extremal events', defined as the maximum intensity difference between consecutive time points, at each location on a 2 degrees latitude-longitude grid at Earth's surface, thereby making no assumptions regarding the spatio-temporal character of the event. Extremal events display spike-shaped time-series in some simulations, though they can often be asymmetric about the peak intensity. Maximum rates of change reach 0.75 mu Tyr(-1) in several simulations, the lower end of estimates for spikes, suggesting that such events can originate from the core. The fastest changes generally occur at latitudes > 50 degrees, which could be used to guide future data acquisitions. Extremal events in the simulations arise from rapid intensification of flux patches as they migrate across the core surface, rather than emergence of flux from within the core. The prospect of observing more spikes in the paleomagnetic record appears contingent on finding samples at the right location and time to sample this particular phase of flux patch evolution. (C) 2018 Published by Elsevier B.V.

2017
Davies, C, Constable C.  2017.  Geomagnetic spikes on the core-mantle boundary. Nature Communications. 8   10.1038/ncomms15593   AbstractWebsite

Extreme variations of Earth's magnetic field occurred in the Levant region around 1000 BC, when the field intensity rapidly rose and fell by a factor of 2. No coherent link currently exists between this intensity spike and the global field produced by the core geodynamo. Here we show that the Levantine spike must span >60 degrees longitude at Earth's surface if it originates from the core-mantle boundary (CMB). Several low intensity data are incompatible with this geometric bound, though age uncertainties suggest these data could have sampled the field before the spike emerged. Models that best satisfy energetic and geometric constraints produce CMB spikes 8-22 degrees wide, peaking at O(100) mT. We suggest that the Levantine spike reflects an intense CMB flux patch that grew in place before migrating northwest, contributing to growth of the dipole field. Estimates of Ohmic heating suggest that diffusive processes likely govern the ultimate decay of geomagnetic spikes.

2015
Ziegler, LB, Constable CG.  2015.  Testing the geocentric axial dipole hypothesis using regional paleomagnetic intensity records from 0 to 300 ka. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 423:48-56.   10.1016/j.epsl.2015.04.022   AbstractWebsite

Absolute and relative geomagnetic paleointensity records reveal variations in geomagnetic dipole strength, either via averaging time series of virtual axial dipole moments, or through formal inversion strategies like the penalized maximum likelihood (PML) method used for the PADM2M (Paleomagnetic Axial Dipole Moment for 0-2 Ma) model. However, departures from the most basic geocentric axial dipole (GAD) structure are obvious on centennial to millennial time scales, and paleomagnetic records from igneous rocks suggest small deviations persist on million year time scales. Spatial variations in heat flow at the core-mantle boundary (inferred from large low shear velocity provinces, LLSVPs) are widely suspected to influence both the average geomagnetic field and its regional secular variation. Long term departures from a GAD configuration should be visible from regional differences in paleointensity reconstructions. We use a PML method to construct time-varying models of regional axial dipole moment (RADMs) from a combined set of absolute and relative palebintensity data, and compare results from the last 300 kyr. RADMs are created from sediment records selected from specific latitude and longitude bands. We also test whether grouping records lying above each of the 2 major LLSVPs (centered on Africa and the Pacific) produce RADMs that are distinct from those above regions lacking anomalous seismic structure. Systematic differences appear in the various regional results. In the most recent part of the record regional differences are broadly similar to the Holocene, CALS10k.1b, time-varying geomagnetic field model spanning 0-10 ka. However, lack of Southern hemisphere records prevents direct confirmation of the hemispheric asymmetry present in CALS10k.1b in both average virtual axial dipole moment and its variability. As expected, the 300 kyr RADMs exhibit greater overall temporal field variability than is seen over 0-10 ka. Average RADM is higher in the Pacific and in Equatorial regions than in the Atlantic and in mid-high latitude northern hemisphere regions. Higher average RADMs are associated with lower overall field variability and less pronounced excursional signatures. Notably, the lower variability in the Pacific sector seen here (defined by either longitude band or LLSVP location) suggests that the modern low paleosecular variation there extends over at least the past few hundred thousand years. RADMs identified with LLSVPs show systematic deviations from the non-LLSVP group of records, with distinct characteristics for the African and Pacific provinces. The African LLSVP generates more pronounced RADM minima associated with geomagnetic excursions, and in general paleointensity decreases associated with excursions occur first in the Atlantic longitude sector and over the African LLSVP. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

2012
Ribaudo, JT, Constable CG, Parker RL.  2012.  Scripted finite element tools for global electromagnetic induction studies. Geophysical Journal International. 188:435-446.   10.1111/j.1365-246X.2011.05255.x   AbstractWebsite

Numerical solution of global geomagnetic induction problems in two and three spatial dimensions can be conducted with commercially available, general-purpose, scripted, finite-element software. We show that FlexPDE is capable of solving a variety of global geomagnetic induction problems. The models treated can include arbitrary electrical conductivity of the core and mantle, arbitrary spatial structure and time behaviour of the primary magnetic field. A thin surface layer of laterally heterogeneous conductivity, representing the oceans and crust, may be represented by a boundary condition at the Earthspace interface. We describe a numerical test, or validation, of the program by comparing its output to analytic and semi-analytic solutions for several electromagnetic induction problems: (1) concentric spherical shells representing a layered Earth in a time-varying, uniform, external magnetic field, (2) eccentrically nested conductive spheres in the same field and (3) homogeneous spheres or cylinders, initially at rest, then rotating at a steady rate in a constant, uniform, external field. Calculations are performed in both the time and frequency domains, and in both 2-D and 3-D computational meshes, with adaptive mesh refinement. Root-mean-square accuracies of better than 1 per cent are achieved in all cases. A unique advantage of our technique is the ability to model Earth rotation in both the time and the frequency domain, which is especially useful for simulating satellite data.