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Love, JJ, Constable CG.  2003.  Gaussian statistics for palaeomagnetic vectors. Geophysical Journal International. 152:515-565.   10.1046/j.1365-246X.2003.01858.x   AbstractWebsite

With the aim of treating the statistics of palaeomagnetic directions and intensities jointly and consistently, we represent the mean and the variance of palaeomagnetic vectors, at a particular site and of a particular polarity, by a probability density function in a Cartesian three-space of orthogonal magnetic-field components consisting of a single (unimodal) non-zero mean, spherically-symmetrical (isotropic) Gaussian function. For palaeomagnetic data of mixed polarities, we consider a bimodal distribution consisting of a pair of such symmetrical Gaussian functions, with equal, but opposite, means and equal variances. For both the Gaussian and bi-Gaussian distributions, and in the spherical three-space of intensity, inclination, and declination, we obtain analytical expressions for the marginal density functions, the cumulative distributions, and the expected values and variances for each spherical coordinate (including the angle with respect to the axis of symmetry of the distributions). The mathematical expressions for the intensity and off-axis angle are closed-form and especially manageable, with the intensity distribution being Rayleigh-Rician. In the limit of small relative vectorial dispersion, the Gaussian (bi-Gaussian) directional distribution approaches a Fisher (Bingham) distribution and the intensity distribution approaches a normal distribution. In the opposite limit of large relative vectorial dispersion, the directional distributions approach a spherically-uniform distribution and the intensity distribution approaches a Maxwell distribution. We quantify biases in estimating the properties of the vector field resulting from the use of simple arithmetic averages, such as estimates of the intensity or the inclination of the mean vector, or the variances of these quantities. With the statistical framework developed here and using the maximum-likelihood method, which gives unbiased estimates in the limit of large data numbers, we demonstrate how to formulate the inverse problem, and how to estimate the mean and variance of the magnetic vector field, even when the data consist of mixed combinations of directions and intensities. We examine palaeomagnetic secular-variation data from Hawaii and Reunion, and although these two sites are on almost opposite latitudes, we find significant differences in the mean vector and differences in the local vectorial variances, with the Hawaiian data being particularly anisotropic. These observations are inconsistent with a description of the mean field as being a simple geocentric axial dipole and with secular variation being statistically symmetrical with respect to reflection through the equatorial plane. Finally, our analysis of palaeomagnetic acquisition data from the 1960 Kilauea flow in Hawaii and the Holocene Xitle flow in Mexico, is consistent with the widely held suspicion that directional data are more accurate than intensity data.

Brown, MC, Donadini F, Korte M, Nilsson A, Korhonen K, Lodge A, Lengyel SN, Constable CG.  2015.  GEOMAGIA50.v3: 1. general structure and modifications to the archeological and volcanic database. Earth Planets and Space. 67:1-31.   10.1186/s40623-015-0232-0   AbstractWebsite

Background: GEOMAGIA50.v3 is a comprehensive online database providing access to published paleomagnetic, rock magnetic, and chronological data from a variety of materials that record Earth's magnetic field over the past 50 ka. Findings: Since its original release in 2006, the structure and function of the database have been updated and a significant number of data have been added. Notable modifications are the following: (1) the inclusion of additional intensity, directional and metadata from archeological and volcanic materials and an improved documentation of radiocarbon dates; (2) a new data model to accommodate paleomagnetic, rock magnetic, and chronological data from lake and marine sediments; (3) a refinement of the geographic constraints in the archeomagnetic/volcanic query allowing selection of particular locations; (4) more flexible methodological and statistical constraints in the archeomagnetic/volcanic query; (5) the calculation of predictions of the Holocene geomagnetic field from a series of time varying global field models; (6) searchable reference lists; and (7) an updated web interface. This paper describes general modifications to the database and specific aspects of the archeomagnetic and volcanic database. The reader is referred to a companion publication for a description of the sediment database. Conclusions: The archeomagnetic and volcanic part of GEOMAGIA50.v3 currently contains 14,645 data (declination, inclination, and paleointensity) from 461 studies published between 1959 and 2014. We review the paleomagnetic methods used to obtain these data and discuss applications of the data within the database. The database continues to expand as legacy data are added and new studies published. The web-based interface can be found at

Brown, MC, Donadini F, Nilsson A, Panovska S, Frank U, Korhonen K, Schuberth M, Korte M, Constable CG.  2015.  GEOMAGIA50.v3: 2. A new paleomagnetic database for lake and marine sediments. Earth Planets and Space. 67   10.1186/s40623-015-0233-z   AbstractWebsite

Background: GEOMAGIA50.v3 for sediments is a comprehensive online database providing access to published paleomagnetic, rock magnetic, and chronological data obtained from lake and marine sediments deposited over the past 50 ka. Its objective is to catalogue data that will improve our understanding of changes in the geomagnetic field, physical environments, and climate. Findings: GEOMAGIA50.v3 for sediments builds upon the structure of the pre-existing GEOMAGIA50 database for magnetic data from archeological and volcanic materials. A strong emphasis has been placed on the storage of geochronological data, and it is the first magnetic archive that includes comprehensive radiocarbon age data from sediments. The database will be updated as new sediment data become available. Conclusions: The web-based interface for the sediment database is located at This paper is a companion to Brown et al. (Earth Planets Space doi:10.1186/s40623-015-0232-0,2015) and describes the data types, structure, and functionality of the sediment database.

Korte, M, Constable CG.  2005.  The geomagnetic dipole moment over the last 7000 years - new results from a global model. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 236:348-358.   10.1016/j.epsl.2004.12.031   AbstractWebsite

Evolution of the geomagnetic field's dipole strength is studied by geomagnetists from global spherical harmonic models and by paleomagnetists using virtual (axial) dipole moments (VDM, VADM). Based on a recently published global model of the past 7000 yr we study whether these three dipole moment descriptions can be considered equivalent, and compare the results to previous global VADM studies and recent global model dipole moments. We conclude that VADM and VDM results averaged over centennial and millennial time scales are systematically higher than the true dipole moment by about 19%. The current dipole decrease is part of a process that has been going on for about 1700 yr. The average rate of decrease is lower than the current one, but has varied significantly so that the current rate cannot be regarded as exceptional. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Donadini, F, Korte M, Constable CG.  2009.  Geomagnetic field for 0-3 ka: 1. New data sets for global modeling. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems. 10   10.1029/2008gc002295   AbstractWebsite

Paleomagnetic and archeomagnetic records are used in both regional and global studies of Earth's magnetic field. We present a description and assessment of five newly compiled data sets, also used in the companion paper by Korte et al. (2009) to produce a series of time-varying spherical harmonic models of the geomagnetic field for the last 3000 years. Data are drawn from our compilation of lake sediment records and from the online database, GEOMAGIA50v2. The five selections are available from the EarthRef Digital Archive at Data are grouped according to the source of material, and we conducted separate assessments of reliability for archeomagnetic artifacts and lava flows (the ARCH3k_dat data set) and for sediments (SED3k_dat). The overall number of data is 55% greater than in previous compilations. Constrained data sets were selected using different criteria for each group. Winnowing of archeological data was based on uncertainties supplied by the original data providers. The lake sediment data assessment relied on preassigned age uncertainties and one or more of the following: comparisons with archeomagnetic data from the same region, regional consistency among several lakes, and consistency with global archeomagnetic models. We discuss relative merits of a larger unconstrained data set or a smaller (possibly) more reliable one. The constrained data sets eliminate a priori up to 35% of the available data in each case and rely on potentially subjective assessments of data quality. Given the limited data available our analyses indicate that iterative rejection of a small number (1-1.5%) of outlying data during global field modeling is a preferable approach. Specific regional comparisons among the models and data support the conclusion that Korte et al.'s outlier-free CALS3k.3 model based on all available measurements from sediments and archeological artifacts currently provides the best global representation of the 0-3 ka field; the ARCH3k.1 model provides a better fit to the denser European archeomagnetic data and may be better in that region.

Korte, M, Donadini F, Constable CG.  2009.  Geomagnetic field for 0-3 ka: 2. A new series of time-varying global models. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems. 10   10.1029/2008gc002297   AbstractWebsite

Steadily increasing numbers of archeomagnetic and paleomagnetic data for the Holocene have allowed development of temporally continuous global spherical harmonic models of the geomagnetic field extending present and historical global descriptions of magnetic field evolution. The current work uses various subsets of improved data compilations, details of which are given in a companion paper by Donadini et al. (2009), and minor modifications of standard modeling strategies (using temporally and spatially regularized inversion of the data and cubic spline parameterizations for temporal variations) to produce five models with enhanced spatial and temporal resolution for 0-3 ka. Spurious end effects present in earlier models are eliminated by enforcing large-scale agreement with the gufm1 historical model for 1650-1990 A.D. and by extending the model range to accommodate data older than 3 ka. Age errors are not considered as a contribution to data uncertainties but are included along with data uncertainties in an investigation of statistical uncertainty estimates for the models using parametric bootstrap resampling techniques. We find common features but also significant differences among the various models, indicating intrinsic uncertainties in global models based on the currently available Holocene data. Model CALS3k.3 based on all available archeomagnetic and sediment data, without a priori quality selection, currently constitutes the best global representation of the past field. The new models have slightly higher dipole moments than our previous models. Virtual axial dipole moments (VADMs) calculated directly from the data are in good agreement with all corresponding model predictions of VADMs. These are always higher than the spherical harmonic dipole moment, indicating the limitations of using VADMs as a measure of geomagnetic dipole moments.

Constable, CG.  2003.  Geomagnetic Reversals: Rates, Timescales, Preferred Paths, Statistical Models, and Simulations. Earth's core and lower mantle: Fluid mechanics of astrophysics and geophysics. ( Jones CA, Soward AM, Zhang K, Eds.).:77-99., London ; New York: Taylor & Francis Abstract
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.

Constable, C.  2007.  Geomagnetic temporal spectrum. Encyclopedia of geomagnetism and paleomagnetism. ( Gubbins D, Herrero-Bervera E, Eds.).:353-355., Dordrecht: Springer Abstract
Constable, CG, Parker RL, Stark PB.  1993.  Geomagnetic-Field Models Incorporating Frozen-Flux Constraints. Geophysical Journal International. 113:419-433.   10.1111/j.1365-246X.1993.tb00897.x   AbstractWebsite

Techniques for modelling the geomagnetic field at the surface of Earth's core often penalize contributions at high spherical harmonic degrees to reduce the effect of mapping crustal fields into the resulting field model at the core-mantle boundary (CMB). Ambiguity in separating the observed field into crustal and core contributions makes it difficult to assign error bounds to core field models, and this makes it hard to test hypotheses that involve pointwise values of the core field. The frozen-flux hypothesis, namely that convective terms dominate diffusive terms in the magnetic-induction equation, requires that the magnetic flux through every patch on the core surrounded by a zero contour of the radial magnetic field remains constant, although the shapes, areas and locations (but not the topology) of these patches may change with time. Field models exactly satisfying the conditions necessary for the hypothesis have not yet been constructed for the early part of this century. We show that such models must exist, so testing the frozen-flux hypothesis becomes the question of whether the models satisfying it are geophysically unsatisfactory on other grounds, for example because they are implausibly rough or complicated. We introduce an algorithm to construct plausible fleld models satisfying the hypothesis, and present such models for epochs 1945.5 and 1980. Our algorithm is based on a new parametrization of the field in terms of its radial component B(r) at the CMB. The model consists of values of B(r) at a finite set of points on the CMB, together with a rule for interpolating the values to other points. The interpolation rule takes the specified points to be the vertices of a spherical triangle tessellation of the CMB, with B(r) varying linearly in the gnomonic projections of the spherical triangles onto planar triangles in the planes tangent to the centroids of the spherical triangles. This parametrization of B(r) provides a direct means of constraining the integral invariants required by the frozen-flux hypothesis. Using this parametrization, we have constructed field models satisfying the frozen-flux hypothesis for epochs 1945.5 and 1980, while fitting observatory and survey data for 1945.5 and Magsat data for 1980. We use the better constrained 1980 CMB field model as a reference for 1945.5: we minimize the departure of the 1945.5 CMB field model from a regularized 1980 CMB field model, while constraining the 1945.5 model to have the same null-flux curves and flux through those curves as the 1980 model. The locations, areas and shapes of the curves are allowed to change. The resulting 1945.5 CMB field model is nearly as smooth as that for 1980, fits the data adequately, and satisfies the conditions necessary for the frozen-flux hypothesis.

Panovska, S, Constable CG, Brown MC.  2018.  Global and regional assessments of paleosecular variation activity over the past 100 ka. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems. 19:1559-1580.   10.1029/2017gc007271   AbstractWebsite

We present a global compilation of paleomagnetic data spanning the past 100 ka. Sediment data comprise 61,687 declinations, 70,936 inclinations, and 69,596 relative paleointensities. Many sites are located in the northern Atlantic and western Pacific, with approximately twice as many data from the Northern Hemisphere as from the Southern Hemisphere. The 14,954 volcanic and archeomagnetic data are sparse, especially in the Southern Hemisphere. Directional and intensity information are aggregated under the paleosecular variation (PSV) index to assess occurrence of excursions over the past 100 ka. The Laschamp excursion (approximate to 41 ka) is clearly defined across globally distributed sediment records with an average duration of 1,300 years. Regional stacks obtained using bootstrap resampling show a more pronounced Laschamp excursion in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern, and in the Atlantic Hemisphere compared with the Pacific. No anomalous indices occurred around the Mono Lake excursion or other periods in the bootstrap curves. This may result from low sedimentation rates, discrepancies in age scales, large age errors, and/or the lack of global character of any transitional events. These data and associated new uncertainty estimates for the sediment records provide a good foundation for global, time-dependent, spherical harmonic field modeling for the past 100 ka.

Constable, CG, Johnson CL, Lund SP.  2000.  Global geomagnetic field models for the past 3000 years: transient or permanent flux lobes? Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series a-Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences. 358:991-1008. AbstractWebsite

PSVMOD1.0 is a compilation of globally distributed palaeodirectional data from archaeomagnetic artefacts, lava flows, and lake sediments at 24 sites evaluated at 100 year intervals from 1000 BC to AD 1800. We estimate uncertainty in these measures of declination and inclination by comparison with predictions from standard historical models in time-intervals of overlap, and use the 100-year samples and their associated uncertainties to construct a sequence of minimum structure global geomagnetic field models. Global predictions of radial magnetic field at the core mantle boundary (CMB), as well as inclination and declination anomalies at the Earth's surface, provide an unprecedented view of geomagnetic secular variations over the past 3000 years, and demonstrate a consistent evolution of the field with time. Resolution of the models is poorest in the Southern Hemisphere, where only six of the 24 sites are located, several with incomplete temporal coverage. Low-flux regions seen in the historical field near the North Pole are poorly resolved, but the Northern Hemisphere flux lobes are clearly visible in the models. These lobes are not fixed in position and intensity, but they only rarely venture into the Pacific hemisphere. The Pacific region is seen to have experienced significant secular variation: a strong negative inclination anomaly in the region, like that seen in 0-5 Ma models, persists from 1000 BC until AD 1000 and then gradually evolves into the smaller positive anomaly seen today. On average bt tween 1000 BC and AD 1800, the non-axial-dipole contribution to the radial magnetic field at the core-mantle boundary is largest in the north-central Pacific, and beneath Central Asia, with clear non-zonal contributions. At the Earth's surface, average inclination anomalies are large and negative in the central Pacific, and most positive slightly to the east of Central Africa. Inclination anomalies decrease with increasing latitude. Average declinations are smallest in equatorial regions, again with strong longitudinal variations, largest negative departures are centred over Australia and Eastern Asia. Secular variation at the Earth's surface is quantified by standard deviation of inclination and declination about their average values, and at the CMB by standard deviation in radial magnetic field. All three show significant geographical variations, but appear incompatible with the idea that secular variation in the Pacific hemisphere is permanently attenuated by greatly enhanced conductivity in D " beneath the region.