Open Access

Ocean circulation generated magnetic signals

Earth, Planets and Space200658:BF03351939

Received: 15 November 2004

Accepted: 21 April 2005

Published: 14 April 2006


Conducting ocean water, as it flows through the Earth’s magnetic field, generates secondary electric and magnetic fields. An assessment of the ocean-generated magnetic fields and their detectability may be of importance for geomagnetism and oceanography. Motivated by the clear identification of ocean tidal signatures in the CHAMP magnetic field data we estimate the ocean magnetic signals of steady flow using a global 3-D EM numerical solution. The required velocity data are from the ECCO ocean circulation experiment and alternatively from the OCCAM model for higher resolution. We assume an Earth’s conductivity model with a surface thin shell of variable conductance with a realistic 1D mantle underneath. Simulations using both models predict an amplitude range of ±2 nT at Swarm altitude (430 km). However at sea level, the higher resolution simulation predicts a higher strength of the magnetic field, as compared to the ECCO simulation. Besides the expected signatures of the global circulation patterns, we find significant seasonal variability of ocean magnetic signals in the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans. Compared to seasonal variation, interannual variations produce weaker signals.

Key words

Ocean flowgeomagnetic fieldsatellite measurements