Dr. Mathieu Dumberry - The enigmatic magnetic field of the Earth: why its temporal variation is weaker over the Pacific?

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Dr. Mathieu Dumberry (U. Alberta)

Vendredi 1er mars à 11h00 - Friday, March 1st, 2019 at 11:00 am

Gill Room, FDA 232, 3450 rue Université, Université McGill

Résumé / Abstract:

Reconstructions of the Earth's magnetic field over the past 400 years show that its temporal variation (commonly called ‘’secular variation’’) has been lower in the Pacific region. This geographic peculiarity was first noticed in the 1930’s. There was a belief originally that this was perhaps due to an artifact from a geographic bias in data quality. However, rather than debunking it, global satellite measurements in the past few decades have confirmed and strengthened the case that the secular variation over the Pacific is weaker (see Figure). But what causes this? Close to 90 years after it was first reported, a proper explanation is still lacking. Time variations of the magnetic field are caused by flows in the uppermost region of the fluid core which are advecting and shearing magnetic field lines. Models of core flows feature a westward planetary scale gyre which is eccentric and avoids the Pacific region. The first order reason for the lower secular variation in the Pacific is then simply because core flows are weaker in this region. But why is this the case and what causes the offset of the gyre? A dynamical coupling with the lower mantle is a possible explanation and, in this presentation, I will show that lateral variations in electrical conductance at the base of the mantle can provide the answer. I will show how a larger conductance under the Pacific exerts a larger electromagnetic drag on flows, slowing down the local eddies. I will also show how it also leads to a deflection of the planetary gyre away from the Pacific. Although the nature of this higher conductance remains unclear, these results suggest lateral differences in the material properties of the lowermost mantle, and therefore it offers clues and constraints on the composition, evolution and dynamics of the mantle.

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The enigmatic magnetic field of the Earth: why its temporal variation is weaker over the Pacific?