Researchers have provided new estimates for how the Earth generates a magnetic field around it based on processes happening within the liquid portion of its mantle, a finding that may lead to a better understanding of the planet’s early history.
According to the researchers, including those from the University of California (UC) San Diego in the US, for long it was held that the Earth’s liquid outer core has always been the source of the dynamo that generates its magnetic field.
Earlier, scientists held that magnetic fields form on the Earth and other planets that have liquid, metallic cores, rotate rapidly, and experience conditions that make the convection of heat possible, the study said.
Geologists later found that during the first half of the planet’s 4.5-billion-year history, the bottom third of Earth’s mantle would have had to have been molten, which they call “the basal magma ocean,” the researchers said.
In the current study, Stegman and his team showed how this once-liquid portion of the lower mantle, rather than the core, may have exceeded the thresholds needed to create the Earth’s magnetic field during that time.
According to the study, the Earth’s mantle is made of silicate material that is normally a very poor electrical conductor.
Scientists for long believed that rapid fluid motions inside the mantle wouldn’t produce large electrical currents needed for magnetic field generation, similar to how Earth’s dynamo currently works in the core, the study noted.
However researchers said this liquid silicate might actually be more electrically conductive than what was generally believed which might have generated planet’s magnetic field.