The kth Fitting ideal of the Alexander invariant B of an arrangement [Ascr ] of n complex hyperplanes defines a characteristic subvariety, Vk([Ascr ]), of the algebraic torus ([Copf ]*)n. In the combinatorially determined case where B decomposes as a direct sum of local Alexander invariants, we obtain a complete description of Vk([Ascr ]). For any arrangement [Ascr ], we show that the tangent cone at the identity of this variety coincides with [Rscr ]1k(A), one of the cohomology support loci of the Orlik–Solomon algebra. Using work of Arapura , we conclude that all irreducible components of Vk([Ascr ]) which pass through the identity element of ([Copf ]*)n are combinatorially determined, and that [Rscr ]1k(A) is the union of a subspace arrangement in [Copf ]n, thereby resolving a conjecture of Falk . We use these results to study the reflection arrangements associated to monomial groups.
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