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Geomagnetic reversal frequency since the Late Cretaceous

Lowrie, William; Kent, Dennis V.

Models of geomagnetic reversals as a stochastic or gamma renewal process have generally been tested for the Heirtzler et al. [1] magnetic polarity time scale which has subsequently been superseded. Examination of newer time scales shows that the mean reversal frequency is dominated in the Cenozoic and Late Cretaceous by a linearly increasing trend on which a rhythmic fluctuation is superposed. Subdivision into two periods of stationary behavior is no longer warranted. The distribution of polarity intervals is visibly not Poissonian but lacks short intervals. The LaBrecque et al. [2] polarity time scale shows the positions of 57 small-wavelength marine magnetic anomalies which may represent short polarity chrons. After adding these short events the distribution of all polarity intervals in the age range 0-40 Myr is stationary and does not differ significantly from a Poisson distribution. A strong asymmetry develops in which normal polarity chrons are Poisson distributed but reversed polarity chrons are gamma distributed with index k = 2. This asymmetry is of opposite sense to previous suggestions and results from the unequal distribution of the short polarity chrons which are predominantly of positive polarity and concentrated in the Late Cenozoic. If short-wavelength anomalies arise from polarity chrons, the geomagnetic field may be more stable in one polarity than the other. Alternative explanations of the origin of short-wavelength marine magnetic anomalies cast doubt on the inclusion of them as polarity chrons, however. The observed behavior of reversal frequency suggests that core processes governing geomagnetic reversals possess a long-term memory.



Also Published In

Earth and Planetary Science Letters

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Biology and Paleo Environment
Published Here
June 29, 2015