Geomagnetic dipole moment collapse by convective mixing in the core

Authors


Abstract

[1] Convective mixing in the fluid outer core can induce rapid transient decrease of the geomagnetic dipole. Here we determine rates of dipole moment decrease as a function of magnetic Reynolds number following convective instability in a numerical dynamo and in axisymmetric kinematic flows. Our calculations show that mixing flows induce reversed magnetic flux on the core-mantle boundary through expulsion of mostly poloidal magnetic field by convective upwellings. The dipole field collapse is accelerated by enhanced radial diffusion and meridional advection of magnetic flux below the core-mantle boundary. Magnetic energy cascades from the dipole to smaller scales during mixing, producing a filamentary magnetic field structure on the core-mantle boundary. We find that the maximum rate of dipole moment decrease on century time scales is weakly sensitive to the mixing flow pattern but varies with the velocity of the flow approximately as cRmβ, with Rm the magnetic Reynolds number and (c, β) ≈ (0.2 ± 0.07, 0.78 ± 0.05). According to our calculations, a mixing flow in the outer core with Rm in the range of 200–300 can account for the historically-measured rate of decrease of the geomagnetic dipole moment, although it is unlikely that a single mixing flow event with this intensity would cause a full dipole collapse or polarity reversal.

Ancillary