A stochastic model for palaeomagnetic field variations

TitleA stochastic model for palaeomagnetic field variations
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsBuffett B.A, Ziegler L., Constable C.G
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Date Published2013/10
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0956-540X
Accession NumberWOS:000325769800007
Keywordsearths core; excursions; frequency; geodynamo; geomagnetic dipole; Geomagnetic excursions; Magnetostratigraphy; mantle; Palaeointensity; paleosecular; past 7 millennia; Probability distributions; reversal rate; Reversals: process; secular variation; timescale; variation

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.

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