Earth's Magnetic Field - Source and Logic

Complex nature of the Magnetic Field and its Source


Concept Engineered in March 1996

A very logical explanation seems available to explain essentially everything about the immensely complex and peculiar magnetic field of the Earth. The traditional Dynamo Theory which claims to have enormous masses of ionized iron atoms ROTATING WITH THE EARTH is shown to be clearly incorrect, but close. Instead, there are PAIRS of COUNTER-ROTATING convective circulations inside the molten liquid Core, where the net effect of the pair of iron circulations tends to cancel out at a large distance such as at the surface of the Earth. When slight variations occur in EITHER of the two convection circulations, the measured magnetic field at the surface of the Earth could rapidly become North-directed or South-directed, explaining the many Magnetic-Pole-Reversals that have been detected in volcanic rocks around the world.

The fact that two much stronger, opposing magnetic fields are then the source, this also explains the complex quadrupole and octopole components of the measured magnetic field, as well as the famous dipole, and they all can then vary in complex and even rapid ways. Such fluctuating quadrupole and octopole components of the Earth's magnetic field are well confirmed.

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This concept was conceived and Engineered by March 1996. This presentation was first placed on the Internet in June 1997.

No measured magnetic field and standard magnetic field
Left: No measured dipole magnetic field; Right: Normal measured dipole magnetic field

The discussion below will clarify these animations, where the outer circle represents the surface of the Earth and all the activity occurs within the Earth's molten liquid Core. Instead of a single circulation as in the popular Dynamo Theory, it seems certain that there are actually pairs or quads of counter-rotating convective circulations as shown here (both driven by the [red] hot-spot that is slightly off-center). As per the right-hand-rule of Physics, the left (yellow here) circulation would create a magnetic field that is directed up toward us, while the right (blue here) circulation would create a magnetic field that was directed down into the image. An assumption is made here that each of these two fields are, say, one hundred times as strong as previously thought. If, as in the left animation, the two circulations are identical in every way, then the (dipole moment of the) net magnetic field (measured at the surface) would be zero, with the two magnetic dipoles being exactly identical but opposite, and therefore canceling out. The situation of the left image would therefore be that NO (dipole) magnetic field would be detected at the Earth's surface.

However, if the left circulation is even one percent larger or stronger or faster or broader than the right, as represented in the right animation (where we have increased it by 10% so that it might be better seen) then the sum of the two magnetic dipoles would result in a net magnetic field that is 1% as strong as either of them, in other words, as strong as we now observe at the surface. The situation of the right image would therefore be that the left circulation is 101% while the right circulation is still 100%, with the net effect of 1% of their actual strength being detected at the earth's surface, or the 1 Gauss that we commonly measure.

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Fluctuations, both fast and slow, are then easily explainable, as well as reversals of the detected magnetic field at the surface.

(Note: These animations and this discussion present a slightly simplified view for the value of clarity. The actual Earth's Core is pretty certainly composed of two separate portions, an Inner Core and an Outer Core. The Outer Core is certainly far less viscous than the Inner Core, and therefore is probably able to flow much faster, and seems therefore likely to be the primary source of the Earth's Magnetic Field. Any Inner Core convective circulations would produce a "hot-spot" where such outward circulations would reach the outer edge of the Inner Core, and such hot-spots would be a heat source to drive convective circulations in the Outer Core.)

For the past several decades, scientists have been struggling with trying to explain many seemingly odd aspects of the Earth's magnetic field. Careful measurements have established quite a number of unusual features, like short-term and long-term variations and multiple poles, that have eluded adequate explanation. This article proposes a comprehensive theory that logically explains ALL the peculiar findings, as well as a mathematically and physically logical description of the source itself.

In addition, it implies that a Fourier Analysis of the massive data collected might even indicate the positions and orientations of each contributing circulation in the Core. And if such Fourier Analyses are done for the data of different dates, we might even be able to determine dynamic changes that are occurring within those circulations. Such Fourier Analyses would certainly establish whether the source convective cell flows were in the Outer Core or in the Inner Core, or both, providing a great deal of valuable new information to us.

The Problem Symptoms

Rather than having just a fixed North Pole and South Pole, measurements clearly show that there are a NUMBER of additional weaker magnetic poles that exist (that represent about 10% of the field strength!) 1. In addition, the exact location of the North Magnetic Pole on the surface of the Earth continuously changes. Seemingly random movements on the scale of inches or feet occur almost daily, and sometimes in a matter of seconds! 2 In addition, the North Magnetic Pole seems to also have had a generally westward drift over a period of centuries (of about 1 meter per hour) 3.

The complexity gets worse! Not only do the Magnetic Poles seem to wiggle around and drift westward, but they sometimes "jerk" (such as in 1969) 2 with the motion briefly rapidly accelerating then. In addition to this, the STRENGTH of the measured magnetic field also has a number of variations and drifts. In recent history, the overall strength has been reducing, implying that 1200 years from now, the Earth's Magnetic Field will be zero! 4

Geologic evidence clearly indicates that the Earth's Magnetic Field has even reversed itself quite a number of times, even within just the past four million years. 5 6 7 8 9. There is evidence of around 170 reversals during the past hundred million years!

The great age of the Earth, and the fact that there are certainly great frictional forces between various interior portions that are (according to popular theories) supposedly moving relative to each other, would seem to suggest that the Earth's Magnetic Field should have its Poles very near the Geographic Poles, at ninety degrees latitude, if those theories were even remotely true. That is not the actual case, and the Magnetic Poles are located many hundreds of miles from the Geographic Poles. Even more peculiar is the fact that, if you connected the North and South Magnetic Poles with an imaginary straight line, that line would not pass ANYWHERE NEAR the actual center of the Earth! The Earth's Magnetic Field system is not even symmetric with the body of the Earth! 10 Worse yet, the various movements of the location of the two Magnetic Poles often seem to have no relationship with each other.

Previous Explanations

There is strong evidence that there is a significant amount of Iron in and near the Core of the Earth. Due to heat from the environment there, and friction from relative movements of material, some of this Iron certainly becomes ionized, which means charged electrically. This seems quite acceptable as theory.

earth cross section Previous theorists have assumed that the entire Core (or the Inner and/or Outer Core) rotates as a single flowing object within the Earth. (In the drawing here, the view is from the South Pole, with the outer circle representing the surface of the Earth.) If that were the case, then all of the charged (ionized) Iron material (represented here in yellow) would follow a relatively circular path around a single axis that we could call the Magnetic Axis. Basic Physics tells us that when electrical charges follow a closed (relatively) circular path (which is effectively a current), a magnetic field is always created as a result. (In this drawing, the right-hand-rule indicates that the North magnetic pole is into-the-paper, confirming that we are looking from the South Polar region). The measurable evidence of this scenario would be a simple "dipole" magnetic field, with a single North Pole and a single South Pole, geographically exactly opposite each other on the surface of the Earth.

This is STILL the prevailing theory, (called the "Dynamo Theory") popular today. Some of the basics of it must certainly be true, such as the presence of Iron, its becoming ionized in various ways, its somewhat fluidic flow, and the consequent effect of a general magnetic field from the motion of these charges. However, the Dynamo Theory is unacceptable as it is normally presented, for a number of reasons.

Internal Frictional Drag

Over the Earth's 4.65 billion years of existence, simple Physics shows that friction at the outer surface of that separately rotating (tilted) internal entity would have aligned the Magnetic and Geographic Poles long ago. In addition, that same friction would have continuously reduced the differential velocities at that boundary surface, which would now have to be effectively zero. This would therefore mean that the only remaining rotation that could induce a magnetic field today would be due to the daily rotation of the Earth. That's not necessarily an impossible situation. However, in such case, the locations of the Magnetic Poles would necessarily be virtually identical with the Geographic Poles. Massive evidence shows this not to be true.

Asymmetric Location of the Iron Core

Another complication of this basic Dynamo Theory is that the whole rotating Core would have to be considerably off-center in the Earth, to explain the offset of the line joining the two surface Magnetic Poles. The rotating Iron Core would necessarily have its rotational axis on the line connecting the North and South Magnetic Poles. This would mean that the massive (dense) Iron Core would have to be centered several hundred miles away from the actual center of the Earth. Dynamical analysis of such a situation quickly shows it to be impossible, because such an offset massive Core would cause continuous violent oscillation of the entire Earth! It would also be a dynamically unstable situation that would have centered itself billions of years ago.

Conservation of Momentum

The prevailing theory also necessarily implies a huge amount of rotational inertia for that massive rotating core. This makes the comments of some scientists ludicrous, who explain the observed geologic magnetic field reversals by the reversals of the rotation of the core. No known mechanism could possibly cause such enormous (and violent!) changes of angular momentum, and the effects could not occur in practical time intervals. 7 8 Other secondary consequences of such a mechanical change must also occur, and evidence of them is non-existent.

Even the most basic mathematical analysis of the rotational inertia and angular momentum of the Earth shows how impossibly large that necessary forces or torques would have to be to cause such physical reversals of the rotation of the Core. And, even if these forces and torques actually could exist, a necessary result of reversing the Core's rotation direction would require (by Conservation of angular momentum) the FASTER rotation of the remainder of the Earth, creating even greater frictional drag between the two counter-rotating portions.

Short-Term Anomalies

This same problem applies equally to explaining the short-term variations in both magnetic field strength and direction and in explaining erratic magnetic pole migration. The phenomenal amount of rotating mass could not change axis direction orientation or rotational rate rapidly enough to cause the measured results, and the force necessary to cause such changes would be beyond imagination. Simple dynamical force analysis shows that. There is no viable source for such a force either. A basic law of Physics has to do with Conservation of Angular Momentum. Even IF some huge torque could come to exist to quickly, incrementally change the rotation of the whole Core over a period of seconds, minutes, hours or days, an equal and opposite torque would have to affect the remainder of the Earth, including the Crust that we live on. Such rather violent movements would easily be sensed. It's just not even remotely possible!

The regular erratic migration of the Magnetic Poles would require a different sort of an internal torque to be applied, to tilt the axis. Simple mathematics shows that even the minor daily movements of the Magnetic Pole Migration would require enormous torques to be applied to tilt the entire Core. In addition to the opposite reaction that would necessarily affect the outer part of the Earth (as mentioned above) an additional effect of torque would appear. That rotating Iron Core would be essentially a giant gyroscope. If a torque was quickly applied to alter the axis of any gyroscope, an acceleration in the third-dimension would appear, a standard fact of Physics. No evidence of this exists.

Mathematical Analysis

The multitude of speculations presented as 'explanations' for the presence of the Earth's magnetic field, do not generally seem to be backed up by any serious dynamical analysis. This is surprising, and the author has searched for such mathematical support by those other sources. If such analysis was done by them, it seems likely that they would see the impossibility of various of their speculations. The following is a very simplistic analysis of the dynamics that would have to exist in the standard Dynamo Theory.

First of all, we think we have a reasonable idea on the physical sizes of the Inner and Outer Core. The current estimates for their radii are 1275 km and 3500 km, respectively. The Outer Core is generally considered to be fluid, and therefore capable of the necessary flow, so we will consider it. The volume of the Outer Core can be simply calculated as about 1.62 * 1026 cm3. With its estimated density of 10 gm/cm3, that indicates a total mass of around 1.62 * 1024 kg. Using Avogadro's number, this indicates approximately 5 * 1046 atoms are involved.

It is unknown just what proportion of those atoms are Iron and/or what proportion of them are ionized into being charged. For this discussion's sake, we are going to take a conservative estimate, that one in a million of the atoms are ionized Iron.

As a side comment, virtually all comments on this subject imply that Iron specifically is necessary in the creation of the Core electrical currents. That assumption seems unnecessary, as ANY fluidic material that can be ionized would carry the necessary electrical charges in the relatively circular paths necessary to create the electrical currents.

This now suggests that we would have a total of around 5 * 1040 electronic charges flowing in the Outer Core.

There has also been much unsupported speculation as to the flow characteristics of the Iron in the Outer Core. For this discussion, we will momentarily accept the opinion of a well-respected authority that the Iron at the extreme high temperatures of the Core, flows 'like water'. If this is the case, the relative motion of the Iron might easily be on the scale of 'slow walking speed' or 1 meter/sec.

Given the dimensions of the Outer Core, we can determine that this corresponds to one full 'orbit' in around 4 years. This results in around 4.4 * 1032 ions/second passing any point in the circuit. This corresponds to an electrical current of around 7 * 1013 Amperes.

The Magnetic Flux created by an electrical current is given by the standard equation: (Flux) = 0.4 * (pi) * N * I / (l / A * (mu)) equation. In this case, N is 1 turn, I is 7 * 1013 Amperes, A is around 1.8 * 1010 cm2. The magnetic relative permeability (mu) for Iron at extremely high temperatures and pressures is not accurately known, but it seems to rise with temperature and seems certain to be at least 10,000. (l) will be consider as around 4 * 109 cm. Plugging all these values into the equation gives a result of a Magnetic Flux of around 4 * 1025 Maxwells.

At the surface of the Earth, this would result in a Magnetic Flux Density of around 30,000,000 Gauss!

Seeing that the ACTUAL measured Flux Density is around 1 Gauss, this standard Dynamo Theory seems to give a field millions of times too intense! The uncertainties in the values of the magnetic relative permeability and flow rates/viscosity of the Iron do not seem to adequately deal with such an incorrect result.

Certainly, if only a small proportion of the atoms are ionized (like one in 30 million), the correct field strength could be obtained, but there are still all the other problems mentioned above.

Other scientists have offered quite a variety of additional speculations to try to explain one or more of the unusual aspects of the Earth's Magnetic Field. Generally, they seem to try to just "glue on" some extra feature, while often neglecting some basic laws of Physics. Sometimes their added features eliminate any possible simultaneous explanation of other unusual aspects that have been recorded. Therefore, unless a scientist considers the dynamical Physics involved, and does the math to assure conservation of rotational inertia, angular momentum, and all the other basic rules of Physics, his suggestions should be given little credibility. For example, a recent speculation 11 that a large meteorite hit the Earth, kicking so much dust into the atmosphere to change the climate, to melt the polar caps, to let more mass of water flow nearer the Equator, to change the relative weight loads in different areas of the Earth, to cause pressure differences thousands of miles deep at the Core-Mantle boundary, is just that, wild speculation. This "theory" was proposed in 1986. The mechanism described does not even remotely stand up to dynamical analysis of the Physics involved, and seems hardly worth mentioning, except for the shallowness of the science being applied.

A Better Dynamo Theory

earth cross section-a Instead of the Earth's Core being considered a single contiguous rotating object, it seems to make much more sense to consider it being a number of individually active heat-driven convection cells. (This drawing is also a polar view, like before. There is a small temporary "hot spot" shown in red, which would drive convective circulation cells, in this example, two. The drawing shows the Inner Core reduced in size to better show the convection cells in the Outer Core.) These cells DO have the rather rapid fluid flows previously speculated, but they are driven by heat rising from the Inner Core, with its radioactive decaying heat sources. The convection cells are therefore edgeways to the Inner Core, offering an efficient method of removing heat that accumulates in the Inner Core. As the rough calculations above imply, these cells, with their relatively rapid flow rates, EACH create very large electrical currents. However, the circumstances around the Inner Core suggests that a general Symmetry must primarily exist, and similar Outer Core convective cells must generally exist on opposite sides of the Outer Core and rotate in opposite directions. The resultant measured Magnetic Field Strength measured at the surface of the Earth would therefore be the summation of a multitude (two in the drawing shown here) of these generally opposing magnetic field generators.

So, even though EACH convection cell is creating a Magnetic Flux a hundred or a thousand or more times greater than necessary to explain our measured surface Flux Densities (as calculated above), the great majority of those (dipole) effects cancel out due to the presence of essentially identical counter-rotating convection cells on the opposite sides of the Outer Core. Note that EITHER convection cell shown could speed up or slow down, or increase or decrease in size. Such variations in both cells seem very logical and likely. The result would be a measured Magnetic Field Strength that can display extreme and erratic fluctuations in both short and long time periods, including regular apparent pole reversals. In addition, this premise includes explanations for the quadrupole (in this drawing) and octopole and higher components of the measured field strengths and many other previously unexplained features of the complexities of the empirical measurements.

Note also that whichever cell is currently strongest would seem to create a dipole moment THROUGH THAT CELL and not through the center of the Earth. This actually seems to imply that the North and South Magnetic Poles could never be at exactly opposite geographic locations.

To present this most clearly, it will be simplest to first consider a situation where there were just two convection cells in the Core. We will later extend the concept to a possible multitude of Core convection cells that probably actually exist.

A Two Convection Cell Model

earth cross section-c Consider a situation where there is a heat source at the very center of the Earth, and that it is surrounded by a viscous fluid. Next, realize that such a viscous fluid would soon develop natural convection cell flows to carry heat away from the central heat source. For the moment we are going to assume that there are just two of these convection cells. We will consider them to be symmetrically opposite the central heat source. We are also going to temporarily assume that the flows in the two cells have identical shaped flow paths, flow rates, and all other dimensions.

We will make one other very reasonable assumption. The flow direction of the two cells are such that the material in the flows nearest adjacent to each other in both cells move parallel to each other and not oppositely. Any alternative to that would involve extensive turbulence and a great amount of friction between the two. After a 4.5 billion year existence, it seems reasonable to conclude that a relatively stable relationship would have developed where the two flow paths would now flow smoothly along side each other where the cells were adjacent. With our two-cell model, this requires the two cells to rotate in opposite directions.

We believe that there is a considerable amount of Iron in the Earth's Core. We also know that flow and friction and heat tends to create ions as electrons are dislodged from atoms. The ionized Iron in the viscous material flowing in the two convection cells now represents two enormous electrical currents. Each cell will therefore create a magnetic field of its own. Due to the "right hand rule" of electromagnetic theory, the direction of the magnetic fields thus created by the two cells will be OPPOSITE one another. For a magnetic sensing device at a great distance away, these two exactly equal and exactly opposite magnetic fields will therefore totally cancel out, and there will be NO evidence of any (dipole) magnetic field. (Because of the lateral displacement between the two field sources, there WILL, however, be evidence of a quadrupole magnetic field, if the sensing device can recognize it.)

Let us now say that EACH of the two magnetic fields present are one hundred times as strong as the dynamo strength previously accepted in theories. If either existed alone within the Core, we on the surface would measure a magnetic field one hundred times as great as we now measure. However, since they TOTALLY cancel each other out, still NO dipole magnetic field would be measured (at a sufficient distance).

Now, let's modify one of our previous assumptions. Instead of the two convection cells being precisely identical, they are very slightly different from each other. This could be due to the overall dimensions of the cell, the velocities of the flow rate, the proportion of ionized Iron present in the cell flow, or any of a number of other possible differences. These small differences between the two cells are dynamic and temporary. Over a long time interval, they would average out, implying approximately equal time periods where each of the two were slightly dominant.

The changes we are proposing here are rather subtle, where one of the convective flow electric currents, and therefore the resultant magnetic field is increased by only one per cent in strength. This rather minor change will have a tremendous effect. Now there WILL be a net measured magnetic field at a distance. The magnetic field strength measured will be effectively the DIFFERENCE in the strengths of the two opposing fields, and therefore of a strength just one per cent of the strengths of the two very strong fields actually created by the individual convection cells. With the parameters chosen for this example, that one per cent differential would register on our measuring devices at the Earth's surface as the accepted field strength we now know to exist.

This situation would ALSO create a quadrupole magnetic field. Mathematical derivation of the strength of the resultant quadrupole field is rather involved, and it is dependent on a large number of variables, including the spacing between the centers of the two convection cells.

This model is dynamically viable for the environment believed to exist in the Core of the Earth. All previous theories have been subject to substantial frictional drag slowing down the source materials and therefore reducing and then soon eliminating the magnetic field existant. This theory acknowledges such frictional drag continuously slowing each convection cell, but accepts that the central heat source would then either re-energize those cells or create new and different cells. In any event, SOME cells would HAVE to exist, to enable the heat from the central source to be carried away and outward. Equally important, virtually always, symmetric PAIRS of such convective cells must form and exist, for dynamic stability reasons.

Conservation of mass, momentum, angular momentum, and other basic laws of Physics would imply that a lot of symmetries would be likely to exist in the convection cells created and maintained in the core. The relative similarity of the two cells in our example, and their locations symmetrically opposite each other from the central heat source, can be shown statistically to be generally preferred situations.

Resolution of Several Problems

The fact that this theory suggests that the Earth's Magnetic Field measured at the surface (or in space) is a result of the vector sum of two much stronger but generally opposing source fields, enables straightforward explanation of many of the peculiar characteristics measured in the Earth's Magnetic Field.

A Multitude of Convection Cells in the Core

earth cross section-d Even our simple two-cell model has made it possible to describe many of the unusual features seen in the Earth's Magnetic Field. Rather than two, there seem likely to be a multitude of such convection cells. Again applying symmetry arguments and the various conservation laws that we know should apply there, there is great statistical support for believing that they often exist in symmetric pairs, that have great similarity to each other, with opposite flow rotation, and where, as before, only the net effect of the difference between the pairs give any evidence of dipole magnetism. This also implies that, not counting eddy effects, there must be an even number of such active large convection cells at any moment. (This drawing shows the example of four such convection cells, again driven by the single [red] "hot spot".) The fact that the Outer Core is three-dimensional, with heat-driven convection cells possible at all locations and with all orientations within it, make for the possibility of extremely complex flow structures. However, the Symmetry arguments still hold, and pairs of opposing cells must certainly be the dominant situation.

Additional aspects of empirical evidence can now be explained:


Evidence keeps accumulating regarding the great complexity of the phenomenon of the Earth's Magnetic Field. Historic evidence from the past two thousand years shows extensive variation, both in strength and orientation, and also great differences between effects and changes at different locations on the globe. Mid-Ocean ridge Magnetic Banding suggests numerous total reversals of the Earth's effective magnetic field in the recent few million years. The empirical field strengths and orientations and the anomalies and drift of the Earth's Magnetic Field are extremely complex. Competing theories cannot explain the diversity of unexpected findings. This present approach is easily capable of explaining all the curious aspects of the phenomenon of the Earth's Magnetic Field.

None of this requires any new forces, torques, laws or mechanisms. Even when very rapid and abrupt changes would be happening to the magnetic field, very little mechanical stress is present in any part of the structure of the Earth. No effect of any of this would shake or vibrate or be otherwise destructive to our planet.


It might be productive if a super-computer was assigned the task of determining a possible combination of N convective cells, each of which could have a wide range of dimensions, shapes, flow rates, orientations, and ionized Iron content rates. Science has accumulated a huge storehouse of magnetic field strengths and orientations, both from the ground and from space, with which such a computer could be fed. In addition, some sort of Fourier analysis might be possible to enable us to recognize individual convection cell contributions in the measured results we have amassed.

It would seem prudent to try to monitor the magnetic field of Uranus, to determine whether the present orientation of its magnetic axis is transitory or meta-stable. We may be observing an ongoing example of a magnetic reversal, knowledge of which should assist us in better understanding the history and dynamics of our planet.


The Earth's Inner Core is generally described as solid. This is a relative term. For behavior during the passage of shock waves, such as earthquake waves, through it, the viscous materials act as a solid. But, for the immense circulations described here, there can still be slow but significant flow. Very cold molasses could propagate shear shock waves like a solid, but it could still flow very slowly. The result in the Earth is a very low VOLTAGE flow, but with immensely high CURRENT. That slow circulation is what causes the individual convection Core cell magnetic fields described.

Theoretical ideas about the vertical distribution of elements in the Earth has always been primarily based on the behavior of earthquake S- and P- waves, on the total mass and rotational inertia of the Earth, and on the composition of extra-terrestrial meteorites found on Earth. These empirical results have been combined with the concept of vertical segregation of minerals and elements by weight, to suggest that the heavy elements (including mostly Iron) would have migrated (in an earlier, more molten Earth) toward the center Core and the lighter elements and minerals (including gases and compounds such as silicates) would migrate toward the outer Crust.

The opinion that the Core is two parts, which are solid and liquid, is primarily based on a shadow-effect on earthquake-generated waves. The concept of solid is somewhat a relative term. Very tall mountains are considered solid, even though they have clearly documented very slow flow rates, so, in some sense, those mountains are fluid, and the flow rates have even been measured. Thus, a solid Core can generally be said to be true (as regarding rapid earthquake waves) while still involving relatively slow flow rates. This circumstance would have the effect of acting as solid for the earthquake generated shock waves, but would still allow fluid flow. Such slow flow would cause two additional consequences. First, the very heavy elements could migrate even more centrally, to the Inner Core, including the primary sources of long-term natural radioactivity (such as Uranium). This new perspective would put the Earth's primary inner heat source farther toward the middle of the Earth. Second, this situation would certainly represent an energy source which would drive the proposed (rather slow) convective movements in the Core.

This possible Inner Core convection would probably tend to stir up the very heavy elements in the center of the Core, so the vertical (radial) segregation may not be as distinct as it could otherwise be. More importantly, this slow convection would likely create a variety of meta-stable, limited-lifetime randomly oriented convection cells in the Core. These cells would be somewhat dynamic and fluctuating, in various locations and of variable number. Each such cell would effectively generate an electric flow in a circuit, and would thus create a magnetic field. These convectively created magnetic fields would likely have components that were generally NOT co-axial with the rotation of the Earth itself!

The Outer Core is certainly much more fluid, demonstrated by the inability of transmitting the S-waves of earthquake shock waves. It has always been assumed to be the source of the Earth's magnetic field, in that the Outer Core materials might have faster flow rates. This presentation does not argue against that. The same explanation can apply for either or both of the Inner and Outer Core, probably separately. The lower viscosity of the Outer Core certainly implies far faster flow rates, and so it might easily be the primary source of the Earth's magnetic field. The suggested Fourier Analysis of existing data of magnetic field measurements seems likely to be able to identify where the specific individual convective circulations are that cause the fields. That Analysis might finally confirm that the magnetic field is produced in the Outer Core or it might suggest that it is formed in the Inner Core, or some combination of the two, which seems most likely.

The individual magnetic fields created by the individual convective Core cells would not be easily noticed or measurable from our perspective at the surface of the Earth. The net, measurable Core magnetic field would be a vector combination of all of these cell-based magnetic fields. MUCH of the effects of the magnetic fields due to specific Core convective cells would be cancelled out by the magnetic fields created by OTHER Core convective cells with opposite circulation flows. For example, two exactly identical convective cells on opposite sides of the Core, would, (due to the Right-Hand Rule of magnetic field orientation as a result of an electric current) cancel each other out! There would be no net dipole effect of the magnetic fields generated by these two Core convective cells. (There WOULD, however, be a quadrupole magnetic field present, because the two sources were spatially separated from each other) Analysis of quadrupole and octopole components of the measured field strength might be especially productive in learning about the specific cell orientations.

This same result could occur from say, SIX convective cells, IF the resultant magnetic field vectors of the six added to a null vector, AT THAT POINT on the surface of the Earth or in space. Such a total cancellation would not generally be possible over an extended area of the surface of the Earth. Analysis of field strengths at adjacent areas should enable reconstruction of the necessary component source fields in the Core.

The net effect of a multitude of Core convective cells would thus have a VERY complex nature, and would certainly NOT act like a simple magnetic dipole. During short time intervals (like decades), this net Core magnetic field would create a measurable Earth magnetic field that seems stable and relatively constant. Small, continuous variations of field intensity and effective magnetic pole location would be expected, as are observed. The current premise would also explain the quadrupole, octopole (and higher) components empirically measured in the Earth's magnetic field.

Of course, many other opposite pairs and generally randomly oriented convective eddy cells could exist at various other angles around the circumference of the Core. Keep in mind that this situation is true in three dimensions, so that there are likely to be convective cells completely surrounding the center of the Core. The net magnetic field of the Earth, as measured at its surface, would be the sum of all these constituent components, making for a measured magnetic field with a LOT of fine detail.

The rotation of the Earth itself would certainly have some effect on the formation and durability of the various constituent Core convective cells. Internal friction should certainly have caused a "general" rotation of the Core that would be moderately co-axial with the rotation of the physical body of the Earth itself. This logic would imply that there would likely be a tendency (but not a necessity) for the axis of the Earth's Magnetic Field to be generally co-axial or anti-axial with the Earth's rotation axis. Further study would be necessary to determine which orientations of Core convective cells would become preferred and which would quickly disappear. This effect might contribute to the empirically identified Reversals of the Earth's magnetic field, rather than just causing random orientation of it. It it would be true that one symmetric pair of convective Core cells predominates, the situation would be similar to that described in the simple Model above.

Over longer time periods, say thousands of years, the effect of stirring up some of the central radioactive materials would cause changes in the locations of some of the Inner Core's heat sources, which would have considerable effects on changing the Outer Core's convective cells flow patterns. Even fairly minor changes in a few of these convective cells might change the NET effect (at the surface of the Earth) so much so as to reverse the Earth's effective magnetic field.

Again, the (net) total field measured at the surface of the Earth is the sum of the magnetic fields of many such pseudo-randomly oriented convection cells (or symmetric cell pairs), so that the total net measured effect could fluctuate erratically and quickly. It is important to note that the magnetic field strength of an individual Core convective cell is FAR larger and more constant than the net effect of an opposing pair. The present premise suggests that this is what allows the rapid, large, erratic fluctuation in the net Earth's magnetic field, both short-term (which we now continuously measure) and long-term (as recorded in magnetic banding in sea floor spreading and in cooled volcanic flows).

This premise also explains the heretofore unexplained quadrupole and octopole magnetic moments of the Earth's magnetic fields, and suggests that thorough analysis of those effects might give some insight into the actual distribution and orientation of the Core's constituent convective cells.

If movement of some of the central radioactive element heat source was such that even one of the Core's convective cells materially changed, the NET magnetic field of the Earth could be significantly and rapidly altered. Even if it wasn't reversed, the Poles might suddenly (over a few hundred years?) jump thousands of miles.

This theory also explains something that no one has seemed concerned about. When the Earth was originally formed, it might have somehow been true that the Core's rotational axis was (briefly) not co-axial with that of the Mantle and Crust. But over the extremely long time the Earth has existed, frictional drag at the Mantle-Core boundary would certainly have caused these axes to have become co-axial long ago. Most competing theories about the source of the Earth's magnetic field have the Core rotating at an angle, such that it is lined up with the present Magnetic Poles. That situation appears to defy the laws of science. The present premise does NOT require this, and includes a mechanism for explaining the separation of the Geographic and Magnetic Poles. This premise allows the much more logical generally co-axial rotation of all the major components of the Earth.

It is distressing that so many "theories" have been presented over the decades where the proponents did not do basic calculations to see if the hypothesis was credible or not. Actual physical reversal of the rotation if the Core of the Earth, the scale of the resulting magnetic field from a simple single Dynamo circulation, and many other ideas seem to quickly be shown erroneous by simple math. There is another area, not directly associated with the Magnetic Field, where such analysis seems prudent. We know the total amount of internal heat the Earth is creating (because it eventually gets to the surface to get radiated out into space, and it has been measured as being 0.02 Btu/hr/sq.ft). We know that the energy created in the Earth's Core can only get out by one or more of three processes, radiation, convection or conduction. Inside a solid body, radiation essentially does not exist. So we only have the other two processes available. We know the thermal conductivity of each type of earth material, and most are very, very slow. In general, heat can take hundreds of years to conduct through a single mile of the Earth, so a 2,700-mile trip would take an extremely long time. If one assumed no convection circulation in the Mantle, where all the heat was moving exclusively by conduction, we would know the entire situation of this energy flow. Specifically, the temperatures of all the locations along this path are fairly easily calculated by Calculus, for the equilibrium situation which must certainly exist after billions of years. No one seems to have bothered to previously do this simple calculation, as it shows that the temperature of the Core would have to be incredibly high, far higher than anyone is actually willing to believe.

This simple calculation therefore shows that the great majority of the outward heat flow is necessarily due to convective flows in the Mantle. By then knowing the total amount of energy being transferred in this way, as well as the thermal capacity of the moving materials, it should be possible to decently estimate the mass flow rates of outward moving convective flows. I have never seen that anyone has ever done this calculation either! But it seems an extremely valuable bit of information! If we knew the (vertical) mass flow rate of Mantle flow, and might estimate the lateral dimensions of such flows, we might be able to estimate the vertical velocity of that flow in the Mantle. Once that flow became horizontal, just under the Crust, where it released that energy to the Crust to continue moving upward and outward, it would seem to be likely to have roughly the same velocity, now horizontal. This might give us a general idea of the horizontal velocity of Mantle motion just under the Crust. We know that the bottom surface of the Crust of rather irregular, and this might then provide some actual numbers regarding forces and velocities of what might be driving Plate Tectonics, where various parts of the Earth's Crust are moving in different directions at different (very slow) velocities. Why has no one done this? A High School Science Project could present this information!


1 Weisburd, Stefi; "The Inner Earth is Coming Out," Science News, 131:222, 1987.
2 Whaler, K.A.; "Geomagnetic Impulses and Deep Mantle Conductivity," Nature, 306:117, 1983.
3 Kerr, Richard A., "Magnetic 'Jerk' Gaining Wider Acceptance," Science, 225:1135, 1984.
4 Anonymous NASA; "Magsat Down: Magnetic Field Declining," Science News, 117:407, 1980.
5 Wei, Q.Y.,; "Intensity of the Geomagnetic Field near Loyang, China, between 500 BC and AD 1900," Nature, 296:728, 1982.
6 Wei, Q.Y.,; "Geomagnetic Intensity as Evaluated from Ancient Chinese Pottery," Nature, 328:330, 1987.
7 Appenzeller, Tim; " A Conundrum at Steens Mountain," Science, 255:31, 1992.
8 Lewin, Roger; "Earth's Field Flips Flipping Fast," New Scientist, p.26, January 25, 1992.
9 Prevot, Michel,; "How the Geomagnetic Field Vector Reverses Polarity," Nature, 316;230, 1985.
10 Dziewonski, Adam M. and Woodhouse, John H.; "Global Images of the Earth's Interior," Science, 236:37, 1987.
11 Muller, Richard A. and Morris, Donald E.; "Geomagnetic Reversals from Impacts on the Earth," Geophysical Research Letters, 13:1177, 1986.
12 Akasofu, S.I. and Saito, T.; "Is the Earth's Dipole Actually Inclined with Respect to Its Rotation Axis?" Eos, 71:490, 1990.

First Developed, March 1996,
First Published on the Web: June 22, 1997

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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago