Photo of Prof Andy Biggin

Prof Andy Biggin

Professor of Palaeomagnetism Earth, Ocean and Ecological Sciences

Research

Long term geomagnetic evolution and links with Earth history

Palaeomagnetic records may be unique in the Earth sciences in giving us direct observational evidence regarding deep internal processes occurring back into deep geological time. The Earth's magnetic field exhibits clear variations on timescales of millions and even billions of years that signify changing conditions in the planet's core and mantle. I am interested to try and explain these variations in terms of mantle dynamics and core evolution. My group is developing palaeomagnetism as a tool for telling us, not only about fluid flow in the outer core, but also about mantle convection from the bottom-up through documenting and interpreting its influence on the geodynamo.

Variations in the Earth's magnetic field through the Holocene

The geomagnetic field's strength and morphology has varied considerably even on the timescales of human history. The field is presently weakening at a rate of a few percent per century leaving our technology increasingly vulnerable to harsh space weather events. Studies of recent variations can tell us about the dynamics of the geodynamo processes operating the Earth's core and additionally warn us about how the field may change in the near future. I am particularly interested in studying very strong fluctuations in the strength of the field that are increasingly evident in archaeomagnetic records from the last few thousands of years.

The Earth's earliest magnetic field

Some of the oldest rocks on Earth retain a palaeomagnetic signal that can be demonstrated to be as old as they are. The Earth was a very different place 3.5 billion years ago, when the rocks we are working with from the Barberton Greenstone Belt in southern Africa acquired their magnetisations. We know very little but the mantle was much hotter and the core was probably still entirely liquid. Palaeomagnetic studies of these rock provide a unique opportunity to constrain conditions deep in Earth's interior in the Archaean Aeon and thereby to document our planet's evolution.

Research Group Membership
Research Grants

DEEP down under: The potential for UK-Australian Palaeomagnetism to contribute to a new paradigm in deep Earth studies

NATURAL ENVIRONMENT RESEARCH COUNCIL (NERC)

October 2018 - December 2019

Determining Earth Evolution from Palaeomagnetism

LEVERHULME TRUST (UK)

August 2017 - July 2022

How strong and variable was the Earth’s magnetic field in the Palaeozoic?

ROYAL SOCIETY (CHARITABLE)

September 2015 - August 2017

Phanerozoic palaeomagnetic variations and their implications for the Earth's deep interior

NATURAL ENVIRONMENT RESEARCH COUNCIL (NERC)

December 2016 - August 2020

Stochastic optimisation of absolute geomagnetic palaeointensity determinations

NATURAL ENVIRONMENT RESEARCH COUNCIL (NERC)

January 2009 - May 2014

Characterising the fluid dynamics of magma-filled fractures: Constraints from analogue experiments and palaeomagnetism

ROYAL SOCIETY (OST)

April 2014 - April 2015

Very long timescale variations in the palaeomagnetic record and the evolution of the Earth's deep interior

NATURAL ENVIRONMENT RESEARCH COUNCIL (NERC)

December 2010 - June 2014

Was the Earth's magnetic field weak in the Late Devonian?

ROYAL SOCIETY (CHARITABLE)

March 2014 - June 2014

2G Model 755 Superconducting Rock Magnetometer with in-line AF demagnetiser

NATURAL ENVIRONMENT RESEARCH COUNCIL (NERC)

December 2013 - June 2016