Journal Article

Core flow inversion tested with numerical dynamo models

Steffen Rau, Ulrich Christensen, Andrew Jackson and Johannes Wicht

in Geophysical Journal International

Volume 141, issue 2, pages 485-497
Published in print May 2000 | ISSN: 0956-540X
Published online May 2000 | e-ISSN: 1365-246X | DOI:
Core flow inversion tested with numerical dynamo models

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We test inversion methods of geomagnetic secular variation data for the pattern of fluid flow near the surface of the core with synthetic data. These are taken from self-consistent 3-D models of convection-driven magnetohydrodynamic dynamos in rotating spherical shells, which generate dipole-dominated magnetic fields with an Earth-like morphology. We find that the frozen-flux approximation, which is fundamental to all inversion schemes, is satisfied to a fair degree in the models. In order to alleviate the non-uniqueness of the inversion, usually a priori conditions are imposed on the flow; for example, it is required to be purely toroidal or geostrophic. Either condition is nearly satisfied by our model flows near the outer surface. However, most of the surface velocity field lies in the nullspace of the inversion problem. Nonetheless, the a priori constraints reduce the nullspace, and by inverting the magnetic data with either one of them we recover a significant part of the flow. With the geostrophic condition the correlation coefficient between the inverted and the true velocity field can reach values of up to 0.65, depending on the choice of the damping parameter. The correlation is significant at the 95 per cent level for most spherical harmonic degrees up to e=26. However, it degrades substantially, even at long wavelengths, when we truncate the magnetic data sets to e≤14, that is, to the resolution of core-field models. In some of the latter inversions prominent zonal currents, similar to those seen in core-flow models derived from geomagnetic data, occur in the equatorial region. However, the true flow does not contain this flow component. The results suggest that some meaningful information on the core-flow pattern can be retrieved from secular variation data, but also that the limited resolution of the magnetic core field could produce serious artefacts.

Keywords: core flow; geodynamo; inverse theory; secular variation

Journal Article.  8056 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Geophysics

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