Transitional geomagnetic impulse hypothesis: Geomagnetic fact or rock-magnetic artifact?


  • Pierre Camps,

  • Robert S. Coe,

  • Michel Prévot


A striking feature of the Steens Mountain (Oregon) geomagnetic polarity reversal is the two (maybe three) extremely rapid field directional changes (6 degrees per day) proposed to account for unusual behavior in direction of remanent magnetization in a single lava flow. Each of these very fast field changes, or impulses, is associated with a large directional gap (some 90°) in the record. In order to check the spatial reproducibility of the paleomagnetic signal over distances up to several kilometers, we have carried out a paleomagnetic investigation of two new sections (B and F) in the Steens summit region which cover the second and the third directional gap. The main result is the description of two new directions, which are located between the pre second and post second impulse directions. These findings weigh against the hypothesis that the geomagnetic field cause the unusual intraflow fluctuations, which now appears to be more ad hoc as an explanation of the paleomagnetic data. However, the alternative baking hypothesis remains also ad hoc since we have to assume variable rock magnetic properties that we have not yet been able to detect within the flows at the original section Steens A and D 1.5 km to the north. In addition, new results for 22 transitional and normal lava flows in section B are presented that correlate well with earlier results from section A.