Simulating the Earth’s Core with the Cray XE6 Monte Rosa

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Earth’s magnetic field is generated in its liquid iron core. Depicted are the results of a 3-D self-consistent computer simulation.

Over at the Swiss HPC Service, Simone Ulmer from CSCS writes that researchers at ETH Zurich and the University of Leeds are using supercomputers to learn why the Earth’s magnetic field moves gradually westward.

The scientists used new methods for their simulation and worked in particular with a viscosity that was two orders of magnitude lower and thus 100 times closer to reality than in previous models. The scientists said that this was how they had succeeded in achieving correspondingly higher resolutions of certain physical processes in the Earth’s core. The simulations show that the force of the Earth’s magnetic field in the outermost region of the liquid core drives the magnetic field westwards. At the same time, these very forces give the solid inner core a thrust towards the east. This leads to Earth’s inner core having a higher rotation speed than the Earth.

Based on their study, the researchers came to the conclusion that even subtle changes in the Earth’s inner magnetic field can lead to the respective directions of movement being reversed.

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