Local Estimation of the Earth's Core Magnetic Field

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesis

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The geomagnetic field is generated in the Earth’s outer core by fluid motions in a process known as the geodynamo. During the past 18 years satellite magnetic measurements have provided new insights into the spatial structure of the field and its time variations. Among these observations are the decay of the dipole field, the signature of a high latitude jet, pulse-like features in the second time derivative of the field at the core-mantle boundary (CMB) and rapid field changes called geomagnetic jerks. Theories into the origin and dynamics of these phenomena may begin to converge as numerical dynamo simulations reach more Earth like conditions and magnetic field measurements are made continuously spanning longer time intervals. In order to gain further geophysical insights into the geo-dynamo processes, there is a need for robust estimation of the core field and its evolution and to quantify the uncertainty and resolution of these estimates. In this thesis two local techniques for estimating the core-generated magnetic field are described and implemented using satellite data from the Swarm and CHAMP satellite missions.
The first technique is the Virtual Observatory (VO) method, in which time series of the field and field gradients at pre-specified locations at satellite altitude, are calculated via a local procedure, such that short-period variations of the core signal can be investigated. These VO time series resembles the time series from ground observatories which have higher temporal resolution. We show that using a refined VO setup together with an im-proved data selection and handling scheme, the VO time series exhibit strong correlation in all three field components with time series of nearby ground observatories. Using the VO time series, signs of field changes over South America around 2016 and in the Pacific region in 2017 may be the first indications of a new geomagnetic jerk taking place. We find that field models built using both vector and gradient VO data show evidence for secular acceleration activity in the Pacific region.
In order to construct reliable estimates of the field tracking its evolution at the CMB, appraisal is crucial. Appraisal consists of spatial resolution and variance estimation. The second technique used builds on a modified Backus-Gilbert inversion approach called Sub-tractive Optimally Localized Averages (SOLA). Using the SOLA method, localized av-erages of the field and its first time derivative are estimated at the CMB, determined via spatial averaging kernels, accounting for both internal and external field sources. We incorporate information from data error covariance matrices which include along-track serial error correlation. We show an example of a global collection of SOLA estimates for the radial main field (MF), with widths of the averaging kernel varying between ∼18° and ∼54° depending on latitude, with a standard deviation of ∼10µT. We present global collections of SOLA estimates for the radial secular variation (SV) at the CMB, based on 2yr data windows, with averaging kernel widths of ∼42°, ∼33° and ∼30° at the equator, with corresponding standard deviations of ∼0.25µT/yr, ∼2.5µT/yr and ∼5µT/yr. We find that the morphology of the MF and SV maps agree well with results from spherical harmonic (SH) based field models, however our method involves only averaging in time and space and not spectral truncation or temporal regularization. We compute the local accumulated secular acceleration (SA) by subtracting the SV SOLA estimates, based on 2yr data windows, from epochs 2 years apart, which have averaging kernel widths of ∼42° at the equator and standard deviation of ∼0.2T/yr2. Comparison of the SOLA based SA and SH field models show good agreement, however we have direct control over the chosen time window length and spatial averaging kernel. Investigating the time evolution of the SA along the geographical equator and pushing towards higher temporal resolution, we compute 1 year SV differences, based on 1yr data windows. We are able to track coherent structures of the SA and their evolution in time-longitude plots. In particular, we find a distinctive SA ”cross-over” event having adjacent and strong oppositely signed SA features, at longitude 25°W in mid 2007. The SOLA technique proves to be well suited for high resolution local studies of the rapidly evolving SA, while at the same time providing the necessary means of appraisal.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationKgs. Lyngby
PublisherTechnical University of Denmark
Number of pages257
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Cite this

Hammer, M. D. (2018). Local Estimation of the Earth's Core Magnetic Field. Technical University of Denmark.