Publications

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2013
Buffett, BA, Ziegler L, Constable CG.  2013.  A stochastic model for palaeomagnetic field variations. Geophysical Journal International. 195:86-97.   10.1093/gji/ggt218   AbstractWebsite

Regeneration of the Earth's magnetic field by convection in the liquid core produces a broad spectrum of time variation. Relative palaeointensity measurements in marine sediments provide a detailed record over the past 2 Myr, but an explicit reconstruction of the underlying dynamics is not feasible. A more practical alternative is to construct a stochastic model from estimates of the virtual axial dipole moment. The deterministic part of the model (drift term) describes time-averaged behaviour, whereas the random part (diffusion term) characterizes complex interactions over convective timescales. We recover estimates of the drift and diffusion terms from the SINT2000 model of Valet et al. and the PADM2M model of Ziegler et al. The results are used in numerical solutions of the Fokker-Planck equation to predict statistical properties of the palaeomagnetic field, including the average rates of magnetic reversals and excursions. A physical interpretation of the stochastic model suggests that the timescale for adjustments in the axial dipole moment is set by the dipole decay time tau(d). We obtain tau(d) = 29 kyr from the stochastic models, which falls within the expected range for the Earth's core. We also predict the amplitude of convective fluctuations in the core, and establish a physical connection to the rates of magnetic reversals and excursions. Chrons lasting longer than 10 Myr are unlikely under present-day conditions. However, long chrons become more likely if the diffusion term is reduced by a factor of 2. Such a change is accomplished by reducing the velocity fluctuations in the core by a factor of root 2, which could be attributed to a shift in the spatial pattern of heat flux from the core or a reduction in the total core heat flow.

2000
Constable, C.  2000.  On rates of occurrence of geomagnetic reversals. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors. 118:181-193.   10.1016/s0031-9201(99)00139-9   AbstractWebsite

The magnetostratigraphic time scale provides a record of the occurrence of geomagnetic reversals. The temporal distribution of reversals may be modelled as the realization of an inhomogeneous renewal process; i.e., one in which the intensity, lambda(t), or reversal rate is a function of time. Variations in reversal rate occurring on time scales of tens of millions of years an believed to reflect changes in core-mantle boundary conditions influencing the structure of core flow and the field produced by the geodynamo. We present a new estimate for reversal rate variations as a function of time using nonparametric adaptive kernel density estimation and discuss the difficulties in making inferences on the basis of such estimates. Using a technique proposed by Hengartner and Stark (1992a; b; 1995), it is possible to compute confidence bounds on the temporal probability density function for geomagnetic reversals. The method allows the computation of a lower bound on the number of modes required by the observations, thus enabling a test of whether "bumps" are required features of the reversal rate function. Conservative 95% confidence intervals can then be calculated for the temporal location of a single mode or antimode of the probability density function. Using observations from the time interval 0-158 Ma, it is found that the derivative of the rate function must have changed sign at least once. The timing of this sign change is constrained to be between 152.56 and 22.46 Ma the 95% confidence level. Confidence bounds are computed for the reversal rate under the assumption that the observed reversals are a realization of an inhomogenous Poisson or other renewal process with an arbitrary monotonically increasing rate function from the end of the Cretaceous Normal Superchron (CNS) to the present, a zero rate during the CNS, and a monotonically decreasing rate function from M29R at 158 Ma to the onset of the CNS. It is unnecessary to invoke more than one sign change in the derivative of the rare function to fit the observations. There is no incompatibility between our results and a recent assertion that there is an asymmetry in average reversal rate prior to and after the CNS, when the CNS is assumed to be a period of zero reversal rate. Neither can we use our results to reject an alternative hypothesis that rates are essentially constant from 158 to 130 Ma, and from 25 Ma to the present. with an intermediate nonstationary segment. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.