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Further constraints for the Plio-Pleistocene geomagnetic field strength: New results from the Los Tuxtlas volcanic field (Mexico)


A rock-magnetic, paleomagnetic and paleointensity study was carried out on 13 Plio-Pleistocene volcanic flows from the Los Tuxtlas volcanic field (Trans Mexican Volcanic Belt) in order to obtain some decisive constraints for the geomagnetic field strength during the Plio-Pleistocene time. The age of the volcanic units, which yielded reliable paleointensity estimates, lies between 2.2 and 0.8 Ma according to the available K/Ar radiometric data. Thermomagnetic investigations reveal that remanence is carried in most cases by Ti-poor titanomagnetite, resulting from oxy-exsolution that probably occurred during the initial flow cooling. Unblocking temperature spectra and relatively high coercivity point to ‘small’ pseudo-single domain magnetic grains for these (titano)magnetites. Single-component, linear demagnetization plots were observed in most cases. Six flows yield reverse polarity magnetization, five flows are normally magnetized, and one flow shows intermediate polarity magnetization. Evidence of a strong lightning-produced magnetization overprint was detected for one site. The mean pole position obtained in this study is Plat = 83.7°, Plong = 178.1°, K = 36, A95 = 8.1°, N = 10 and the corresponding mean paleodirection is I = 31.3°, D = 352°, k = 37, α95 = 8.2°, which is not significantly different from the expected direction estimated from the North American apparent polar wander path. Thirty-nine samples were pre-selected for Thellier palaeointensity experiments because of their stable remanent magnetization and relatively weak-within-site dispersion. Only 21 samples, coming from four individual basaltic lava flows, yielded reliable paleointensity estimates with the flow-mean virtual dipole moments (VDM) ranging from 6.4 to 9.1 × 1022 Am2. Combining the coeval Mexican data with the available comparable quality Pliocene paleointensity results yield a mean VDM of 6.4 × 1022 Am2, which is almost 80% of the present geomagnetic axial dipole. Reliable paleointensity results for the last 5 Ma are still scarce and are of dissimilar quality. Additional high-quality absolute intensity determinations are needed to better constraint the geomagnetic field strength during the Plio-Pleistocene time.


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Correspondence to Luis M. Alva-Valdivia.

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Alva-Valdivia, L.M., Goguitchaichvili, A. & Urrutia-Fucugauchi, J. Further constraints for the Plio-Pleistocene geomagnetic field strength: New results from the Los Tuxtlas volcanic field (Mexico). Earth Planet Sp 53, 873–881 (2001).

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  • Natural Remanent Magnetization
  • Virtual Dipole Moment
  • Geomagnetic Field Strength
  • Paleointensity Experiment
  • Paleointensity Data