Time-dependent low-latitude core flow and geomagnetic field acceleration pulses

Clemens Kloss*, Christopher C. Finlay

*Corresponding author for this work

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    We present a new model of time-dependent flow at low latitudes in the Earth’s core between 2000 and 2018 derived from magnetic field measurements made on board the Swarm and CHAMP satellites and at ground magnetic observatories. The model, called CoreFlo-LL.1, consists of a steady background flow without imposed symmetry plus a time-dependent flow that is dominated by geostrophic and quasi-geostrophic components but also allows weak departures from equatorial symmetry. Core flow mode amplitudes are determined at 4-month intervals by a robust least-squares fit to ground and satellite secular variation data. The l1 norm of the square root of geostrophic and inertial mode enstrophies, and the l2 norm of the flow acceleration, are minimized during the inversion procedure. We find that the equatorial region beneath the core–mantle boundary is a place of vigorous, localized, fluid motions; time-dependent flow focused at low latitudes close to the core surface is able to reproduce rapid field variations observed at non-polar latitudes at and above Earth’s surface. Magnetic field acceleration pulses are produced by alternating bursts of non-zonal azimuthal flow acceleration in this region. Such bursts are prominent in the longitudinal sectors from 80–130°E and 60–100°W throughout the period studied, but are also evident under the equatorial Pacific from 130°E to 150°W after 2012. We find a distinctive interannual alternation in the sign of the non-zonal azimuthal flow acceleration at some locations involving a rapid crossover between flow acceleration convergence and divergence. Such acceleration sign changes can occur within a year or less and, when the structures involved are of large spatial extent, they can give rise to geomagnetic jerks at the Earth’s surface. For example, in 2014, we find a change in the sign of the non-zonal azimuthal flow acceleration under the equatorial Pacific as a region of flow acceleration divergence near 130°E changes to a region of flow acceleration convergence. This occurs at a maximum in the amplitude of the time-varying azimuthal flow under the equatorial Pacific and corresponds to a geomagnetic jerk at the Earth’s surface.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalGeophysical Journal International
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)140-168
    Publication statusPublished - 2019


    • Satellite magnetics
    • Inverse Theory
    • Rapid time variations
    • Core


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