Geomagnetic semblance and dipolar-multipolar transition in top-heavy double-diffusive geodynamo models

11 Jan 2021  ·  Théo Tassin, Thomas Gastine, Alexandre Fournier ·

Convection in the liquid outer core of the Earth is driven by thermal and chemical perturbations. The main purpose of this study is to examine the impact of double-diffusive convection on magnetic field generation by means of 3D global geodynamo models, in the so-called "top-heavy" regime of double-diffusive convection, when both thermal and compositional background gradients are destabilizing... Using a linear eigensolver, we begin by confirming that, compared to the standard single-diffusive configuration, the onset of convection is facilitated by the addition of a second buoyancy source. We next carry out a systematic parameter survey by performing $79$ numerical dynamo simulations. We show that a good agreement between simulated magnetic fields and the geomagnetic field can be attained for any partitioning of the convective input power between its thermal and chemical components. On the contrary, the transition between dipole-dominated and multipolar dynamos is found to strongly depend on the nature of the buoyancy forcing. Classical parameters expected to govern this transition, such as the local Rossby number or the degree of equatorial symmetry of the flow, fail to capture the dipole breakdown. A scale-dependent analysis of the force balance instead reveals that the transition occurs when the ratio of inertial to Lorentz forces at the dominant length scale reaches $0.5$, regardless of the partitioning of the buoyancy power. The ratio of integrated kinetic to magnetic energy $E_k/E_m$ provides a reasonable proxy of this force ratio. Given that $E_k/E_m \ll 1$ in the Earth's core, the geodynamo is expected to operate far from the dipole-multipole transition. It hence appears that the occurrence of geomagnetic reversals is unlikely related to dramatic and punctual changes of the amplitude of inertial forces in the Earth's core, and that another mechanism must be sought. read more

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Geophysics Earth and Planetary Astrophysics Fluid Dynamics