Magnetic field stretching at the top of the shell of numerical dynamos

Research areas:
Earth, Planets and Space
The process of magnetic field stretching transfers kinetic energy to magnetic energy and by that maintains dynamos against Ohmic dissipation. Stretching at the top of the outer core may play an important role at specific regions. High-latitude intense magnetic flux patches may be concentrated by flow convergence. Reversed flux patches may emerge due to expulsion of toroidal field advected to the core--mantle boundary by fluid upwelling. Here we analyze snapshots from self-consistent 3D numerical dynamos to unravel the nature of field--flow interactions that induces stretching secular variation at the top of the core. We find that stretching at the top of the shell has a significant influence on the secular variation despite the relatively weak poloidal flow. In addition, locally stretching is often more effective than advection in particular at regions of significant field-aligned flow. Magnetic flux patches are concentrated by fluid downwelling and dispersed by fluid upwelling. Stretching is more efficient than advection in intensifying magnetic flux patches. Both stretching and the poloidal flow mostly depend on the magnetic Prandtl number Pm. Decreasing Pm gives smaller poloidal flow but stronger stretching. Accounting for field--flow interactions in both the advection and stretching terms suggests that the magnetic Reynolds number overestimates the actual ratio of magnetic advection to diffusion by ∼50 {\%}. Morphological resemblance between local stretching in our dynamo models and local observed geomagnetic secular variation may suggest the presence of stretching at the top of the Earth's core. Our results shed light on the kinematic origin of intense geomagnetic flux patches and may have implications to the convective state of the upper outer core.