Video: Deciphering the reversals and excursions of the Earth’s magnetic field

The earth’s magnetic field varies over time and even flips in polarity periodically. Bruce Buffet of UC Berkeley talks in this SETI Institute seminar about efforts to understand how the earth’s interior causes such variability : Geomagnetic Reversals and excursions: The origin of Earth’s magnetic field – SETI Institute


From the lecture announcement:

Palaeomagnetic observations offer important insights into the origin of Earth’s interior, but a detailed reconstruction of the underlying dynamics is not feasible. A practical alternative is to construct a stochastic model for the time evolution of the dipole field.

Slow changes in the field are described by a deterministic (drift) term, whereas short-time fluctuations are represented by a random (noise) term. Estimates for the drift and noise terms can be recovered from a time series of variations in the axial dipole moment over the past 2 million years. The results are used to predict a number of statistical properties of the palaeomagnetic field, including the average rates of magnetic reversals and excursions.

Dr. Buffet will explain how a physical interpretation of the stochastic models suggests that reversals and excursions are part of a continuum of time variations in Earth’s magnetic field, arising from convective fluctuations in the core. Relatively modest changes the amplitude of convective fluctuations can produce large changes in reversal rates, including the well-known occurrence of superchrons lasting longer than 10 million years.