Open Access

Westward drift in secular variation of the main geomagnetic field inferred from IGRF

Earth, Planets and Space201455:BF03351740

Received: 17 September 2002

Accepted: 4 March 2003

Published: 20 June 2014


Westward drift is apparent not only in the Main Geomagnetic field (MG-field) but also in its Secular Variation (SV-field). The eighth generation of International Geomagnetic Reference Field (IGRF) is used in this paper to study westward drift in the SV-field. The magnetic potential of the SV-field shows a simple spatial distribution and steady variation tendency. An average westward drift rate (0.43 degree/year) is obtained from the SV potential for 1900–2005, which is much greater than the slow westward drift of the MG-field itself (about 0.15 degree/year) for the same period. Magnetic components Y and Z of the SV-field show complicated patterns, from which the average rates of westward drift are roughly estimated as 0.39 degree/year and 0.43 degree/year, respectively. The spatial distribution of component X shows much more complicated pattern with many small-scale vertices, especially for the period 1940–1960, giving a larger drift rate (0.51 degree/year). The unusual behaviors of the high-degree Gauss coefficients in IGRF 1945, 1950 and 1955 slightly affect the spatial pattern of the potential, although they greatly distort the distribution of components X, Y and Z.