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Boundary Control of Magnetohydrodynamics in Earth’s Liquid Core

Academic lead
Jon Mound (Earth and Environment)
Chris Davies (Earth and Environment), Steve Tobias (Mathematics)
Project themes
Geophysical and Astrophysical Flows, Underpinning Methods for Fluid Dynamics

Convection within Earth’s fluid core generates its planetary magnetic field; spatial and temporal variations of the geomagnetic field can thus be used to study the dynamics of this otherwise inaccessible region. Seismic, geomagnetic, and geodynamic observations indicate that lateral variations in heat flow are imposed on the core at the top, and possibly bottom, of Earth’s core. These forcings, together with free convection, produce a rich variety of dynamical behaviour; for example, some realistic scenarios predict relatively quiescent regions at the top of the core where thermal stratification suppresses convection (indicated by the green isovolume in the figure), juxtaposed beside regions of vigorous turbulent convection (shades of orange show temperature fluctuations of small scale plumes). This project will combine numerical, theoretical, and possibly laboratory, approaches to produce a systematic study of boundary control on the dynamics of non-magnetic and magnetic convection within rotating fluid shells and extrapolate to planetary conditions to investigate the potential for these dynamics to explain observed features of Earth’s magnetic field.

The PhD student will also benefit from membership of the Leeds Institute for Fluid Dynamics (LIFD), a cross-disciplinary research institute bringing together the expertise of over 200 researchers from 12 Schools in 4 Faculties at the University of Leeds. The institute provides a hub to facilitate world-leading research and education in fluid dynamics and to bring interdisciplinary perspectives to complex flow challenges. Find out more about Leeds Institute of Fluid Dynamics.