Using archaeomagnetic field models to constrain the physics of the core: robustness and preferred locations of reversed flux patches

Research areas:
Geophysical Journal International
Archaeomagnetic field models cover longer timescales than historical models and may therefore resolve the motion of geomagnetic features on the core–mantle boundary (CMB) in a more meaningful statistical sense. Here we perform a detailed appraisal of archaeomagnetic field models to infer some aspects of the physics of the outer core. We characterize and compare the identification and tracking of reversed flux patches (RFPs) in order to assess the RFPs robustness. We find similar behaviour within a family of models but differences among different families, suggesting that modelling strategy is more influential than data set. Similarities involve recurrent positions of RFPs, but no preferred direction of motion is found. The tracking of normal flux patches shows similar qualitative behaviour confirming that RFPs identification and tracking is not strongly biased by their relative weakness. We also compare the tracking of RFPs with that of the historical field model gufm1 and with seismic anomalies of the lowermost mantle to explore the possibility that RFPs have preferred locations prescribed by lower mantle lateral heterogeneity. The archaeomagnetic field model that most resembles the historical field is interpreted in terms of core dynamics and core–mantle thermal interactions. This model exhibits correlation between RFPs and low seismic shear velocity in co-latitude and a shift in longitude. These results shed light on core processes, in particular we infer toroidal field lines with azimuthal orientation below the CMB and large fluid upwelling structures with a width of about 80° (Africa) and 110° (Pacific) at the top of the core. Finally, similar preferred locations of RFPs in the past 9 and 3 kyr of the same archaeomagnetic field model suggest that a 3 kyr period is sufficiently long to reliably detect mantle control on core dynamics. This allows estimating an upper bound of 220–310 km for the magnetic boundary layer thickness below the CMB.