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.

2016
Constable, C, Korte M, Panovska S.  2016.  Persistent high paleosecular variation activity in southern hemisphere for at least 10,000 years. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 453:78-86.   10.1016/j.epsl.2016.08.015   AbstractWebsite

Direct observations of the geomagnetic field show that secular variation is strong in the Atlantic hemisphere, and comparatively reduced in the Pacific region. The dipole has been decaying since at least 1840 AD, driven by growth and migration of reverse flux patches in the southern hemisphere. We investigate whether anything like this modern pattern of geomagnetic secular variation persists and can be detected in global paleomagnetic field models. Synthesis of results from two new time-varying spherical harmonic models shows that geographically distinct geomagnetic secular variation extends to at least 10000 BP. The models use the same database but differ in methodology, leading to some regional differences in results. Consistent large-scale surface features include strong average fields in the northern hemisphere and weaker fields with greater overall variability in the south. Longitudinal structure is present, with weaker average fields in the western Pacific than in the east, and prominent negative inclination anomalies extending beneath Indonesia, across Africa and to Brazil, but weaker anomalies in the central Pacific. Marginally positive inclination anomalies occur west of the Americas. Paleosecular variation activity peaks at high southern latitudes, and there is a pattern of reduced activity at equatorial and mid-latitudes beneath the Pacific. Although the dipole has exhibited both growth and decay over the interval 0-10 000 BP, our results show that geomagnetic paleosecular variation is preferentially focused in similar geographic regions to secular variation seen in the modern field. (C) 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.

2011
Amit, H, Korte M, Aubert J, Constable C, Hulot G.  2011.  The time-dependence of intense archeomagnetic flux patches. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 116   10.1029/2011jb008538   AbstractWebsite

The long-term temporal behavior of intense geomagnetic flux patches at the core-mantle boundary and the relation with lower mantle lateral heterogeneity are under debate. We apply an algorithm to detect centers of intense flux patches and track their time-evolution in a recent archeomagnetic field model in order to study the kinematics of such intense magnetic flux patches on millennial timescale. We find that most intense flux patches appear near the edge of the tangent cylinder. Quasi-stationary periods with small oscillations of patches occur more than drifts. Detailed comparison of the archeomagnetic patches' behavior with that seen in numerical dynamos with tomographic heat flux boundary conditions suggests that core-mantle thermal coupling could be the cause of a statistical preference for some longitudes on the long term, which does not exclude significant time spent away from the preferred longitudes. This could explain the roughly coincident locations of high-latitude patches in the historical geomagnetic field with that of the time-average paleomagnetic field together with the much weaker patches intensity in the latter. Alternating eastward and westward drifts are also observed. The drifts are more westward than eastward, especially in the southern hemisphere, indicating that the time-average zonal core flow may also be driven by core-mantle thermal coupling. An average patch lifetime of similar to 300 years is found, which we hypothesize may indicate the vortex lifetime in the outer core.

2010
Donadini, F, Korte M, Constable C.  2010.  Millennial Variations of the Geomagnetic Field: from Data Recovery to Field Reconstruction. Space Science Reviews. 155:219-246.   10.1007/s11214-010-9662-y   AbstractWebsite

Variations of the geomagnetic field over past millennia can be determined from archeomagnetic data and paleomagnetic sediment records. The resolution and validity of any field reconstruction depends on the reliability of such indirect measurements of past field values. Considerable effort is invested to ensure that the magnetic minerals carrying the ancient magnetization are good, if not ideal, recorders of the magnetic field. This is achieved by performing a wide array of rock magnetic and microscopy investigations, many of which are outlined here. In addition to data quality, the spatial and temporal distributions of archeomagnetic and sediment records play a significant role in the accuracy of past field reconstruction. Global field reconstructions enable studies of dynamic processes in Earth's core. They rely on data compilations which ideally include information about the quality of a measurement and provide a useful archive for selecting data with the best characteristics. There is, however, a trade off between the total number of reliable data and the geographic or temporal coverage. In this review we describe the various types of paleomagnetic recorders, and the kind of measurements that are performed to gather reliable geomagnetic field information. We show which modeling strategies are most suitable, and the main features of the field that can be derived from the resulting models. Finally, we discuss prospects for progress in this kind of research.

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.