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Does the planetary dynamo go cycling on? Re-examining the evidence for cycles in magnetic reversal rate

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 March 2017

Adrian L. Melott*
Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045, USA
Anthony Pivarunas
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Florida, 241 Williamson Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
Joseph G. Meert
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Florida, 241 Williamson Hall, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
Bruce S. Lieberman
Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity Institute, University of Kansas, 1345 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045, USA


The record of reversals of the geomagnetic field has played an integral role in the development of plate tectonic theory. Statistical analyses of the reversal record are aimed at detailing patterns and linking those patterns to core–mantle processes. The geomagnetic polarity timescale is a dynamic record and new paleomagnetic and geochronologic data provide additional detail. In this paper, we examine the periodicity revealed in the reversal record back to 375 million years ago (Ma) using Fourier analysis. Four significant peaks were found in the reversal power spectra within the 16–40-million-year range (Myr). Plotting the function constructed from the sum of the frequencies of the proximal peaks yield a transient 26 Myr periodicity, suggesting chaotic motion with a periodic attractor. The possible 16 Myr periodicity, a previously recognized result, may be correlated with ‘pulsation’ of mantle plumes and perhaps; more tentatively, with core–mantle dynamics originating near the large low shear velocity layers in the Pacific and Africa. Planetary magnetic fields shield against charged particles, which can give rise to radiation at the surface and ionize the atmosphere, which is a loss mechanism particularly relevant to M stars. Understanding the origin and development of planetary magnetic fields can shed light on the habitable zone.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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Does the planetary dynamo go cycling on? Re-examining the evidence for cycles in magnetic reversal rate
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