Paleomagnetic Study of a Reversal of the Earth's Magnetic Field

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Science  21 May 1971:
Vol. 172, Issue 3985, pp. 840-845
DOI: 10.1126/science.172.3985.840


A detailed record of a field reversal has been obtained from the natural remanent magnetization of the Tatoosh intrusion in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. The reversal took place at 14.7 ± 1 million years and is interpreted to be from reverse to normal. A decrease in the intensity of the field of about an order of magnitude occurs immediately before the reversal, while its orientation remains substantially unchanged. The onset of the reversal is marked by abrupt swinging of the virtual geomagnetic pole along an arc of a great circle. During the reversal the pole traces a path across the Pacific. In the last stage of the process recorded in the sections, the succession of virtual geomagnetic poles is very similar to those generated by secular variation in the recent past. Although the cooling rate of the intrusion is not sufficiently well known to permit a useful calculation of the duration of the reversal process, an estimate based on the length of the supposed secular variation cycles gives 1 to 4 x 103 years for the reversal of field direction and approximately 1 x 104 years for the time scale of the intensity changes.