Determining Earth Evolution from Palaeomagnetism

About

DEEP is a research group formed as a result of a Leverhulme Trust Research Leadership Award awarded to Prof Andrew Biggin in 2017. It is based in the Geomagnetism Laboratory of the University of Liverpool.

DEEP brings together world-leading research expertise across geophysics and geology to develop palaeomagnetism as a tool for understanding deep Earth processes occurring across timescales of millions to billions of years.

Our understanding of Earth’s deep interior currently lacks a crucial dimension. Seismology provides 3D images down to the centre of the Earth, 6370 km beneath our feet, but only for a snapshot in time: today. By contrast, geology provides records of dynamic processes over the last 3.5 billion years but only at Earth’s surface. We therefore currently have a dearth of direct observational constraints on the deep Earth through time implying that models of Earth evolution lack the empirical data necessary to test their theoretical predictions.

DEEP will focus on providing such a constraint by utilising palaeomagnetism, the study of Earth’s magnetic field produced in the outer core (at a depth of 2,890 km) millions to billions of years ago and preserved in rocks formed at the surface at that time. This requires fieldwork and laboratory measurements to generate new measurements of the magnetic field’s strength and direction at crucial time periods. It also requires that palaeomagnetic records are reliably compared to numericalsimulations of Earth’s magnetic field generated under conditions reflecting the range of predicted Earth evolution scenarios.