Research ArticleEARTH SCIENCES

Intrinsic paleointensity bias and the long-term history of the geodynamo

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Science Advances  15 Feb 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 2, e1602306
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1602306

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Many geodynamo models predict an inverse relationship between geomagnetic reversal frequency and field strength. However, most of the absolute paleointensity data, obtained predominantly by the Thellier method from bulk volcanic rocks, fail to confirm this relationship. Although low paleointensities are commonly observed during periods of high reversal rate (notably, in the late Jurassic), higher than present-day intensity values are rare during periods of no or few reversals (superchrons). We have identified a fundamental mechanism that results in a pervasive and previously unrecognized low-field bias that affects most paleointensity data in the global database. Our results provide an explanation for the discordance between the experimental data and numerical models, and lend additional support to an inverse relationship between the reversal rate and field strength as a fundamental property of the geodynamo. We demonstrate that the accuracy of future paleointensity analyses can be improved by integration of the Thellier protocol with low-temperature demagnetizations.

  • Geomagnetism
  • geodynamo
  • paleomagnetism
  • paleointensity
  • Thellier method
  • geomagnetic field

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