Gyre-driven decay of the Earth’s magnetic dipole

Christopher C. Finlay, Julien Aubert, Nicolas Gillet

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Abstract

Direct observations indicate that the magnitude of the Earth’s magnetic axial dipole has decreased over the past 175 years; it is now 9% weaker than it was in 1840. Here we show how the rate of dipole decay may be controlled by a planetary-scale gyre in the liquid metal outer core. The gyre’s meridional limbs on average transport normal polarity magnetic flux equatorward and reverse polarity flux poleward. Asymmetry in the geomagnetic field, due to the South Atlantic Anomaly, is essential to the proposed mechanism. We find that meridional flux advection accounts for the majority of the dipole decay since 1840, especially during times of rapid decline, with magnetic diffusion making an almost steady contribution generally of smaller magnitude. Based on the morphology of the present field, and the persistent nature of the gyre, the current episode of dipole decay looks set to continue, at least for the next few decades.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10422
JournalNature Communications
Volume7
Number of pages8
ISSN2041-1723
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Cite this

Finlay, Christopher C. ; Aubert, Julien ; Gillet, Nicolas . / Gyre-driven decay of the Earth’s magnetic dipole. In: Nature Communications. 2016 ; Vol. 7.
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Gyre-driven decay of the Earth’s magnetic dipole. / Finlay, Christopher C.; Aubert, Julien; Gillet, Nicolas .

In: Nature Communications, Vol. 7, 10422, 2016.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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AU - Gillet, Nicolas

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PY - 2016

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N2 - Direct observations indicate that the magnitude of the Earth’s magnetic axial dipole has decreased over the past 175 years; it is now 9% weaker than it was in 1840. Here we show how the rate of dipole decay may be controlled by a planetary-scale gyre in the liquid metal outer core. The gyre’s meridional limbs on average transport normal polarity magnetic flux equatorward and reverse polarity flux poleward. Asymmetry in the geomagnetic field, due to the South Atlantic Anomaly, is essential to the proposed mechanism. We find that meridional flux advection accounts for the majority of the dipole decay since 1840, especially during times of rapid decline, with magnetic diffusion making an almost steady contribution generally of smaller magnitude. Based on the morphology of the present field, and the persistent nature of the gyre, the current episode of dipole decay looks set to continue, at least for the next few decades.

AB - Direct observations indicate that the magnitude of the Earth’s magnetic axial dipole has decreased over the past 175 years; it is now 9% weaker than it was in 1840. Here we show how the rate of dipole decay may be controlled by a planetary-scale gyre in the liquid metal outer core. The gyre’s meridional limbs on average transport normal polarity magnetic flux equatorward and reverse polarity flux poleward. Asymmetry in the geomagnetic field, due to the South Atlantic Anomaly, is essential to the proposed mechanism. We find that meridional flux advection accounts for the majority of the dipole decay since 1840, especially during times of rapid decline, with magnetic diffusion making an almost steady contribution generally of smaller magnitude. Based on the morphology of the present field, and the persistent nature of the gyre, the current episode of dipole decay looks set to continue, at least for the next few decades.

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