Article

Topographic Core‐Mantle Coupling and Polar Motion On Decadal Time‐Scales

Department of Physics (Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics), University of Oxford, Clarendon Laboratory, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PU
Geophysical Journal International (Impact Factor: 2.72). 04/1996; 125(2):599 - 607. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-246X.1996.tb00022.x

ABSTRACT Associated with non-steady magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) flow in the liquid metallic core of the Earth, with typical relative speeds of a fraction of a millimetre per second, are fluctuations in dynamic pressure of about 103 N m−2. Acting on the non-spherical core-mantle boundary (CMB), these pressure fluctuations give rise to a fluctuating net topographic torque Lt(t) (i=1, 2, 3)—where t denotes time—on the overlying solid mantle. Geophysicists now accept the proposal by one of us (RH) that Li-(t) makes a significant and possibly dominant contribution to the total torque Li*(t) on the mantle produced directly or indirectly by core motions. Other contributions are the ‘gravitational’ torque associated with fluctuating density gradients in the core, the ‘electromagnetic’ torque associated with Lorentz forces in the weakly electrically conducting lower mantle, and the ‘viscous’ torque associated with shearing motions in the boundary layer just below the CMB. the axial component L3*(t) of Li* (t) contributes to the observed fluctuations in the length of the day [LOD, an inverse measure of the angular speed of rotation of the solid Earth (mantle, crust and cryosphere)], and the equatorial components (Li* (t)) L* (t) contribute to the observed polar motion, as determined from measurements of changes in the Earth's rotation axis relative to its figure axis.

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