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.

2007
Jackson, A, Constable CG, Walker MR, Parker RL.  2007.  Models of Earth's main magnetic field incorporating flux and radial vorticity constraints. Geophysical Journal International. 171:133-144.   10.1111/j.1365-246X.2007.03526.x   AbstractWebsite

We describe a new technique for implementing the constraints on magnetic fields arising from two hypotheses about the fluid core of the Earth, namely the frozen-flux hypothesis and the hypothesis that the core is in magnetostrophic force balance with negligible leakage of current into the mantle. These hypotheses lead to time-independence of the integrated flux through certain 'null-flux patches' on the core surface, and to time-independence of their radial vorticity. Although the frozen-flux hypothesis has received attention before, constraining the radial vorticity has not previously been attempted. We describe a parametrization and an algorithm for preserving topology of radial magnetic fields at the core surface while allowing morphological changes. The parametrization is a spherical triangle tesselation of the core surface. Topology with respect to a reference model (based on data from the Oersted satellite) is preserved as models at different epochs are perturbed to optimize the fit to the data; the topology preservation is achieved by the imposition of inequality constraints on the model, and the optimization at each iteration is cast as a bounded value least-squares problem. For epochs 2000, 1980, 1945, 1915 and 1882 we are able to produce models of the core field which are consistent with flux and radial vorticity conservation, thus providing no observational evidence for the failure of the underlying assumptions. These models are a step towards the production of models which are optimal for the retrieval of frozen-flux velocity fields at the core surface.