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Geomagnetic acceleration and rapid hydromagnetic wave dynamics in advanced numerical simulations of the geodynamo

Abstract : Geomagnetic secular acceleration, the second temporal derivative of the Earth's magnetic field, is a unique window on the dynamics taking place in the Earth's core. In this study, the behaviours of the secular acceleration and underlying core dynamics are examined in new numerical simulations of the geodynamo that are dynamically closer to the Earth’s core conditions than earlier models. These new models reside on a theoretical path in parameter space connecting the region where most classical models are found to the natural conditions. The typical timescale for geomagnetic acceleration is found to be invariant along this path, at a value close to 10 yr that matches the Earth’s core estimates. Despite this invariance, the spatio-temporal properties of secular acceleration show significant variability along the path, with an asymptotic regime of rapid rotation reached after 30 per cent of this path (corresponding to a model Ekman number E = 3 × 10−7). In this regime, the energy of secular acceleration is entirely found at periods longer than that of planetary rotation, and the underlying flow acceleration patterns acquire a 2-D columnar structure representative of the rapid rotation limit. The spatial pattern of the secular acceleration at the core–mantle boundary shows significant localization of energy within an equatorial belt. Rapid hydromagnetic wave dynamics is absent at the start of the path because of insufficient timescale separation with convective processes, weak forcing and excessive damping but can be clearly exhibited in the asymptotic regime. This study reports on ubiquitous axisymmetric geostrophic torsional waves of weak amplitude relatively to convective transport, and also stronger, laterally limited, quasi-geostrophic Alfvén waves propagating in the cylindrical radial direction from the tip of convective plumes towards the core–mantle boundary. In a system similar to the Earth’s core where the typical Alfvén velocity is significantly larger than the typical convective velocity, quasi-geostrophic Alfvén waves are shown to be an important carrier of flow acceleration to the core surface that links with the generation of strong, short-lived and intermittent equatorial pulses in the secular acceleration energy. The secular acceleration timescale is shown to be insensitive to magnetic signatures from torsional waves because of their weak amplitude, and from quasi-geostrophic Alfvén waves because of their intermittent character, and is therefore only indicative of convective transport phenomena that remain invariant along the parameter space path.
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Julien Aubert. Geomagnetic acceleration and rapid hydromagnetic wave dynamics in advanced numerical simulations of the geodynamo. Geophysical Journal International, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2018, 214 (1), pp.531-547. ⟨10.1093/gji/ggy161⟩. ⟨insu-02918321⟩

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