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Journal Articles Geophysical Journal International Year : 2015

Quasi-geostrophic modes in the Earth's fluid core with an outer stably stratified layer

Jérémie Vidal
Nathanaël Schaeffer


Seismic waves sensitive to the outermost part of the Earth's liquid core seem to be affected by a stably stratified layer at the core-mantle boundary. Such a layer could have an observable signature in both long-term and short-term variations of the magnetic field of the Earth, which are used to probe the flow at the top of the core. Indeed, with the recent SWARM mission, it seems reasonable to be able to identify waves propagating in the core with period of several months, which may play an important role in the large-scale dynamics. In this paper, we characterize the influence of a stratified layer at the top of the core on deep quasi-geostrophic (Rossby) waves. We compute numerically the quasi-geostrophic eigenmodes of a rapidly rotating spherical shell, with a stably stratified layer near the outer boundary. Two simple models of stratification are taken into account, which are scaled with commonly adopted values of the Brunt-Väisälä frequency in the Earth's core. In the absence of magnetic field, we find that both azimuthal wavelength and frequency of the eigenmodes control their penetration into the stratified layer: the higher the phase speed, the higher the permeability of the stratified layer to the wave motion. We also show that the theory developed by Takehiro and Lister [2001] for thermal convection extends to the whole family of Rossby waves in the core. Adding a magnetic field, the penetrative behaviour of the quasi-geostrophic modes (the so-called fast branch) is insensitive to the imposed magnetic field and only weakly sensitive to the precise shape of the stratification. Based on these results, the large-scale and high frequency modes (1 to 2 month periods) may be detectable in the geomagnetic data measured at the Earth's surface, especially in the equatorial area where the modes can be trapped.
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Dates and versions

insu-01110339 , version 1 (27-01-2015)
insu-01110339 , version 2 (26-06-2015)


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Jérémie Vidal, Nathanaël Schaeffer. Quasi-geostrophic modes in the Earth's fluid core with an outer stably stratified layer. Geophysical Journal International, 2015, 202 (3), pp.2182-2193. ⟨10.1093/gji/ggv282⟩. ⟨insu-01110339v2⟩
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