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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.

Panovska, S, Korte M, Finlay CC, Constable CG.  2015.  Limitations in paleomagnetic data and modelling techniques and their impact on Holocene geomagnetic field models. Geophysical Journal International. 202:402-418.   10.1093/gji/ggv137   AbstractWebsite

Characterization of geomagnetic field behaviour on timescales of centuries to millennia is necessary to understand the mechanisms that sustain the geodynamo and drive its evolution. As Holocene paleomagnetic and archeomagnetic data have become more abundant, strategies for regularized inversion of modern field data have been adapted to produce numerous time-varying global field models. We evaluate the effectiveness of several approaches to inversion and data handling, by assessing both global and regional properties of the resulting models. Global Holocene field models cannot resolve Southern hemisphere regional field variations without the use of sediments. A standard data set is used to construct multiple models using two different strategies for relative paleointensity calibration and declination orientation and a selection of starting models in the inversion procedure. When data uncertainties are considered, the results are similar overall regardless of whether we use iterative calibration and reorientation, or co-estimation of the calibration and orientation parameters as part of the inversion procedure. In each case the quality of the starting model used for initial relative paleointensity calibration and declination orientation is crucial and must be based on the best absolute information available. Without adequate initial calibration the morphology of dipole moment variations can be recovered but its absolute value will be correlated with the initial intensity calibrations, an effect that might be mitigated by ensuring an appropriate fit to enough high quality absolute intensity data with low uncertainties. The declination reorientation mainly impacts regional field structure and in the presence of non-zonal fields will result in a non-zero local average. The importance of declination orientation is highlighted by inconsistencies in the West Pacific and Australian sediment records in CALS10k.1b model. Great care must also be taken to assess uncertainties associated with both paleomagnetic and age data and to evaluate the effects of poor data distribution. New consistently allocated uncertainty estimates for sediment paleomagnetic records highlight the importance of adequate uncertainties in the inversion process, as they determine the relative weighting among the data and overall normalized misfit levels which in turn influence the complexity of the inferred field models. Residual distributions suggest that the most appropriate misfit measure is the L-1 norm (minimum absolute deviation) rather than L-2 (least squares), but this seems to have relatively minor impact on the overall results. For future Holocene field modelling we see a need for comprehensive methods to assess uncertainty in individual archeomagnetic data so that these data or models derived from them can be used for reliable initial relative paleointensity calibration and declination orientation in sediments. More work will be needed to assess whether co-estimation or an iterative approach to inversion is more efficient overall. This would be facilitated by realistic and globally consistent data and age uncertainties from the paleomagnetic community.

McMillan, DG, Constable CG, Parker RL.  2002.  Limitations on stratigraphic analyses due to incomplete age control and their relevance to sedimentary paleomagnetism. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 201:509-523.   10.1016/s0012-821x(02)00747-1   AbstractWebsite

A major limitation in the analysis of physical quantities measured from a stratigraphic core is incomplete knowledge of the depth to age relationship for the core. Records derived from diverse locations are often compared or combined to construct records that represent a global signal. Time series analysis of individual or combined records is commonly employed to seek quasi-periodic components or characterize the timescales of relevant physical processes. Assumptions that are frequently made in the approximation of depth to age relationships can have a dramatic and harmful effect on the spectral content of records from stratigraphic cores. A common procedure for estimating ages in a set of samples from a stratigraphic core is to assign, based on complementary data, the ages at a number of depths (tie points) and then assume a uniform accumulation rate between the tie points. Imprecisely dated or misidentified tie points and naturally varying accumulation rates give rise to discrepancies between the inferred and the actual ages of a sample. We develop a statistical model for age uncertainties in stratigraphic cores that treats the true, but in practice unknown, ages of core samples as random variables. For inaccuracies in the ages of tie points, we draw the error from a zero-mean normal distribution. For a variable accumulation rate, we require the actual ages of a sequence of samples to be monotonically increasing and the age errors to have the form of a Brownian bridge. That is, the errors are zero at the tie points. The actual ages are modeled by integrating a piecewise constant, randomly varying accumulation rate. In each case, our analysis yields closed form expressions for the expected value and variance of resulting errors in age at any depth in the core. By Monte Carlo simulation with plausible parameters, we find that age errors across a paleomagnetic record due to misdated tie points are likely of the same order as the tie point discrepancies. Those due to accumulation rate variations can be as large as 30 kyr, but are probably less than 10 kyr. We provide a method by which error estimates like these can be made for similar stratigraphic dating problems and apply our statistical model to an idealized marine sedimentary paleomagnetic record. Both types of errors severely degrade the spectral content of the inferred record. We quantify these effects using realistic tie point ages, their uncertainties and depositional parameters. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Constable, C.  1992.  Link Between Geomagnetic Reversal Paths And Secular Variation Of The Field Over The Past 5 MY. Nature. 358:230-233.   10.1038/358230a0   AbstractWebsite

PALAEOMAGNETIC records provide information about the behaviour of the geomagnetic field during reversals1,2. Existing records are incompatible with transitional field configurations that are either entirely dipolar or entirely zonal (dependent only on latitude)3,4. Recent compilations5-8 have indicated that the transitional paths of virtual geomagnetic poles (VGPs) for the past few reversals are located preferentially within two antipodal longitudinal bands, suggesting that simple but non-zonal field configurations dominate during reversals. Here I point out that one of the longitudinal bands coincides with that expected from the reversal of a non-axial-dipole field exactly like that present today; the other requires only a sign change in the non-axial-dipole terms of today's field. Evidence for persistent non-zonal contributions to the field has generally9-13 (but not always14,15) been regarded as not statistically significant in the light of poor data distributions. I show here that a non-zonal bias, similar to that observed in reversal data, is evident in data on secular variation of the field over the past 5 Myr, even after normalization according to site locations. These results suggest that the time-averaged field does indeed contain persistent (but not constant) non-zonal contributions.