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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.

Davies, CJ, Constable CG.  2014.  Insights from geodynamo simulations into long-term geomagnetic field behaviour. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 404:238-249.   10.1016/j.epsl.2014.07.042   AbstractWebsite

Detailed knowledge of the long-term spatial configuration and temporal variability of the geomagnetic field is lacking because of insufficient data for times prior to 10 ka. We use realisations from suitable numerical simulations to investigate three important questions about stability of the geodynamo process: is the present field representative of the past field; does a time-averaged field actually exist; and, supposing it exists, how long is needed to define such a field. Numerical geodynamo simulations are initially selected to meet existing criteria for morphological similarity to the observed magnetic field. A further criterion is introduced to evaluate similarity of long-term temporal variations. Allowing for reasonable uncertainties in the observations, observed and synthetic axial dipole moment frequency spectra for time series of order a million years in length should be fit by the same power law model. This leads us to identify diffusion time as the appropriate time scaling for such comparisons. In almost all simulations, intervals considered to have good morphological agreement between synthetic and observed field are shorter than those of poor agreement. The time needed to obtain a converged estimate of the time-averaged field was found to be comparable to the length of the simulation, even in non-reversing models, suggesting that periods of stable polarity spanning many magnetic diffusion times are needed to obtain robust estimates of the mean dipole field. Long term field variations are almost entirely attributable to the axial dipole; nonzonal components converge to long-term average values on relatively short timescales (15-20 kyr). In all simulations, the time-averaged spatial power spectrum is characterised by a zigzag pattern as a function of spherical harmonic degree, with relatively higher power in odd degrees than in even degrees. We suggest that long-term spatial characteristics of the observed field may emerge on averaging times that are within reach for the next generation of global time-varying paleomagnetic field models. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Ziegler, LB, Constable CG.  2011.  Asymmetry in growth and decay of the geomagnetic dipole. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 312:300-304.   10.1016/j.epsl.2011.10.019   AbstractWebsite

The geodynamo in Earth's core is responsible for magnetic field changes on diverse timescales, including numerous enigmatic reversals of the dipole field polarity. Understanding the physical processes driving them is an active area of investigation via both paleomagnetic work and numerical simulations of the geodynamo. Some previous studies on geomagnetic field intensity detected a sawtooth pattern of intensity around reversals: a gradual decay in field strength preceding a reversal followed by rapid growth afterwards. Here we characterize distinct statistical properties for increasing and decreasing dipole strength over the past two million years. Examining the geomagnetic field and its time derivative on a range of time scales reveals that for periods longer than about 25 ky there is a clear asymmetry in the statistical distributions for growth versus decay rates of the dipole strength. At 36 ky period, average growth rate is about 20% larger than the decay rate, and the field spends 54% of its time decaying, but only 46% growing. These differences are not limited to times when the field is reversing, suggesting that the asymmetry is controlled by fundamental physical processes underlying all paleosecular variation. The longer decay cycle might suggest the possibility of episodic periods of subcritical dynamo activity where the field is dominated by diffusive processes, followed by transient episodes of strong growth of the axial dipole. However, our work finds no clear separation of timescales for the influence of diffusive and convective processes on dipole moment: both seem to play an important but asymmetric role on the 25-150 ky timescale. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

McMillan, DG, Constable CG.  2006.  Limitations in correlation of regional relative geomagnetic paleointensity. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems. 7   10.1029/2006gc001350   AbstractWebsite

Time domain correlations of common features among relative paleointensity records from sedimentary cores are invaluable to paleomagnetism and paleoclimatology. Sediments with high accumulation rates might now provide millennial scale correlations of temporal variations in the geomagnetic dipole moment. Errors in the ages of paleomagnetic data samples, however, can make such correlations difficult and unreliable. We use spectral methods to assess the level of coherence expected among individual and stacked high- resolution simulated paleointensity records for the time interval 0 - 75 ka. Correlations between individual paleointensity records are systematically degraded with decreased sedimentation rate and increased magnitude of age errors. We find that with optimistic age errors and interpolation of depth sampled data to evenly spaced time series, only short period signal in high- resolution relative paleointensity is corrupted. For currently available methods of establishing chronologies, we estimate the minimum characteristic timescale of correlative features between pairs of regional stacked records at about 4.5 kyr. From an analysis of NAPIS- 75 and SAPIS data, it appears that the limit is inherent to the regional stacks and not a consequence of comparison of distant, independent data sets. A detailed comparison of the NAPIS- 75 and SAPIS stacks shows that this limit is likely larger, perhaps 6 kyr. At long periods the two regional stacks are more poorly correlated than those from our simulations, suggesting somewhat larger age errors in the individual paleointensity records.

Constable, C, Korte M.  2006.  Is Earth's magnetic field reversing? Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 246:1-16.   10.1016/j.epsl.2006.03.038   AbstractWebsite

Earth's dipole field has been diminishing in strength since the first systematic observations of field intensity were made in the mid nineteenth century. This has led to speculation that the geomagnetic field might now be in the early stages of a reversal. In the longer term context of paleomagnetic observations it is found that for the current reversal rate and expected statistical variability in polarity interval length an interval as long as the ongoing 0.78 Myr Brunhes polarity interval is to be expected with a probability of less than 0.15, and the preferred probability estimates range from 0.06 to 0.08. These rather low odds might be used to infer that the next reversal is overdue, but the assessment is limited by the statistical treatment of reversals as point processes. Recent paleofield observations combined with insights derived from field modeling and numerical geodynamo simulations suggest that a reversal is not imminent. The current value of the dipole moment remains high compared with the average throughout the ongoing 0.78 Myr Brunhes polarity interval; the present rate of change in Earth's dipole strength is not anomalous compared with rates of change for the past 7 kyr; furthermore there is evidence that the field has been stronger on average during the Brunhes than for the past 160 Ma, and that high average field values are associated with longer polarity chrons. There is no evidence from recent millennial scale time-varying paleofield models to indicate that the field is entering a polarity transition. Nevertheless, it remains a reasonable supposition that the magnetic field will eventually reverse even though the time scale is unpredictable. A more immediate concern is that ongoing secular variation in the magnetic field may be expected to moderate the current high dipole strength on centennial to millennial time scales: it would not be surprising if it dropped substantially, returning closer to the average without necessarily reversing. This could have important consequences for space weather, and also highlights the need for improved understanding of the impact of geomagnetic field strength on the production rates of cosmogenic isotopes that are used to estimate past solar variability. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Constable, C, Johnson C.  2005.  A paleomagnetic power spectrum. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors. 153:61-73.   10.1016/j.pepi.2005.03.015   AbstractWebsite

We construct a power spectrum of geomagnetic dipole moment variations or their proxies that spans the period range from some tens of million down to about 100 years. Empirical estimates of the spectrum are derived from the magnetostratigraphic time scale, from marine sediment relative paleointensity records, and from a time varying paleomagnetic field model for the past 7 kyr. The spectrum has the most power at long periods, reflecting the influence of geomagnetic reversals and in general decreases with increasing frequency (decreasing period). The empirical spectrum is compared with predictions from simple models. Discrepancies between the observed and predicted spectra are discussed in the context of: (i) changes in reversal rate, (ii) overall average reversal rate, (iii) cryptochrons, (iv) the time taken for a reversal to occur, and (v) long term paleosecular variations and average estimates of the field strength and variance from other sources. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

McMillan, DG, Constable CG, Parker RL, Glatzmaier GA.  2001.  A statistical analysis of magnetic fields from some geodynamo simulations. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems. AbstractWebsite

We present a statistical analysis of magnetic fields simulated by the Glatzmaier-Roberts dynamically consistent dynamo model. For four simulations with distinct boundary conditions, means, standard deviations, and probability functions permit an evaluation based on existing statistical paleosecular variation (PSV) models. Although none closely fits the statistical PSV models in all respects, some simulations display characteristics of the statistical PSV models in individual tests. We also find that nonzonal field statistics do not necessarily reflect heat flow conditions at the core-mantle boundary. Multitaper estimates of power and coherence spectra allow analysis of time series of single, or groups of, spherical harmonic coefficients representing the magnetic fields of the dynamo simulations outside the core. Sliding window analyses of both power and coherence spectra from two of the simulations show that a 100 kyr averaging time is necessary to realize stationary statistics of their nondipole fields and that a length of 350 kyr is not long enough to full characterize their dipole fields. Spectral analysis provides new insight into the behavior and interaction of the dominant components of the simulated magnetic fields, the axial dipole and quadrupole. Although we find spectral similarities between several reversals, there is no evidence of signatures that can be conclusively associated with reversals or excursions. We test suggestions that during reversals there is increased coupling between groups of spherical harmonic components. Despite evidence of coupling between antisymmetric and symmetric spherical harmonics in one simulation, we conclude that it is rare and not directly linked to reversals. In contrast to the reversal model of R. T. Merrill and P. L. McFadden, we demonstrate that the geomagnetic power in the dipole part of the dynamo simulations is either relatively constant or fluctuates synchronously with that of the nondipole part and that coupling between antisymmetric and symmetric components occurs when the geomagnetic power is high.

Constable, CG, Johnson CL.  1999.  Anisotropic paleosecular variation models: implications for geomagnetic field observables. Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors. 115:35-51.   10.1016/s0031-9201(99)00065-5   AbstractWebsite

We present a family of statistical models for paleosecular variation (PSV) of the geomagnetic field that are compatible with paleodirectional and paleointensity variations in lava flows sampling the last 5 Ma, and explore what paleomagnetic observables might be used to discriminate among the various family members. We distinguish statistical models with axial anisotropy, which provide a suitable description for an earth with homogeneous boundary conditions at the core-mantle interface from those with more general anisotropy corresponding to geographically heterogeneous boundary conditions. The models revise and extend earlier ones, which are themselves descendants of CP88, devised by Constable and Parker [Constable, C.G., Parker, R.L., 1988. Statistics of the geomagnetic secular variation for the past 5 m.y. J. Geophys, Res. 93, 11569-11581]. In CP88, secular variation is described by statistical variability of each Gauss coefficient in a spherical harmonic description of the geomagnetic field, with each coefficient treated as a normally distributed random variable: the Gauss coefficients of the non-dipole part of the field exhibit isotropic variability, and the variances are derived from the present field spatial power spectrum. The dipole terms have a special status in CP88, with a non-zero mean for the axial-dipole, and lower variance than predicted from the spatial power spectrum. All non-dipole terms have zero mean except the axial-quadrupole. CP88 is untenable for two reasons: it fails to predict the observed geographic dependence of directional variability in the magnetic field, and it grossly underpredicts the variance in paleointensity data. The new models incorporate large variance in the axial-dipole, and in the non-axial-quadrupole Gauss coefficients, g1/2: and h1/2:. The resulting variance in paleomagnetic observables depends only on latitude (zonal models), unless the variance in h1/2: is different from that in g1/2 (non-zonal models). Non-zonal (longitudinal) variations in PSV, such as the flux lobes seen in the historical magnetic field, are simulated using the non-zonal models. Both the zonal and non-zonal models fit summary statistics of the present dataset. We investigate the influence of persistent non-zonal influences in PSV on various paleomagnetic observables. It is shown that virtual geomagnetic pole (VGP) dispersion is rather insensitive to longitudinal variations in structure of PSV, and that inclination dispersion has the potential to be more informative given the right site distribution. There is also the possibility of using paleointensity and geographic variations in the frequency of occurrence of excursional directions to identify appropriate PSV models. (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Johnson, CL, Constable CG.  1997.  The time-averaged geomagnetic field: global and regional biases for 0-5 Ma. Geophysical Journal International. 131:643-+.   10.1111/j.1365-246X.1997.tb06604.x   AbstractWebsite

Palaeodirectional data from lava flows and marine sediments provide information about the long-term structure and variability in the geomagnetic held. We present a detailed analysis of the internal consistency and reliability of global compilations of sediment and lava-flow data. Time-averaged field models are constructed for normal and reverse polarity periods for the past 5 Ma, using the combined data sets. Non-zonal models are required to satisfy the lava-flow data, but not those from sediments alone. This is in part because the sediment data are much noisier than those from lavas, but is also a consequence of the site distributions and the way that inclination data sample the geomagnetic field generated in the Earth's core. Different average held configurations for normal and reverse polarity periods are consistent with the palaeomagnetic directions; however, the differences are insignificant relative to the uncertainty in the average field models. Thus previous inferences of non-antipodal normal and reverse polarity field geometries will need to be re-examined using recently collected high-quality palaeomagnetic data. Our new models indicate that current global sediment and lava-flow data sets combined do not permit the unambiguous detection of northern hemisphere flux lobes in the 0-5 Ma time-averaged field, highlighting the need for the collection of additional high-latitude palaeomagnetic data. Anomalous time-averaged held structure is seen in the Pacific hemisphere centred just south of Hawaii. The location of the anomaly coincides with heterogeneities in the lower mantle inferred from seismological data. The seismic observations can be partly explained by lateral temperature variations; however, they also suggest the presence of lateral compositional variations and/or the presence of partial melt. The role of such heterogeneities in influencing the geomagnetic held observed at the Earth's surface remains an unresolved issue, requiring higher-resolution time-averaged geomagnetic field models, along with the integration of future results from seismology, mineral physics and numerical simulations.