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Paleointensity extremes: Dynamic implications and future fields

Department of Earth, Ocean and Ecological Sciences

About the Project

The strength of our protective magnetic field is in a state of rapid decline, but how long this will persist, how rapid it will become, and what it will mean for modern life remains unknown. Our modern society depends heavily on electronic systems that can be vulnerable to geomagnetic storms caused by solar activity. If our protective barrier continues to decay, these technologies will become more susceptible to the impact of these electromagnetic storms.

Advancing our knowledge of the past evolution of the deep Earth and the physics behind extreme geomagnetic features are frontiers in paleomagnetic research that are necessary to understand and predict the future of Earth’s magnetic field. However, our ability to do this is held back by the uncertainty in records of the ancient magnetic field strength (paleointensity).

Project Aims and Methods:
This project will bridge the gap between specimen-level paleointensity data and global geomagnetic field reconstructions by propagating detailed specimen information through to the global scale models of field variability over the last few thousand years. These models can then be used to make testable predictions of how the field changes over decadal timescales and assess if extreme changes in strength of the magnetic field are reliable observations. This will help understand the generation of the geomagnetic field and implications for future changes.

The candidate will undertake a series of lab-based experiments to characterize the magnetic behavior of commonly used materials. A broad range of data and materials will be analyzed, which will involve visiting collaborators in Europe (and other locations) to collect and analyze specimens and data.

These experimental observations will be fed into numerical models of paleointensity behavior to predict the accuracy of records show dramatic changes in our strength of protective magnetic field. The candidate will focus two extreme events: the Levantine Iron Age Anomaly, which records the strongest and fastest changing known field on Earth; and the current decline in field strength that is associated with the growth of a region of weak fields in the South Atlantic. This project has the potential to allow the candidate flexibility in the focus of the final application to feed their curiosity.

Impact, Knowledge and Skills Development:
You will become a member of the postgraduate research community in the Department of Earth, Ocean & Ecological Sciences at the University of Liverpool and an integral part of the Geomagnetism group, which host world-class facilities and expertise. You will also have the opportunity to collaborate with paleomagnetists who utilize geological materials as well as archeologists who extract magnetic signals form fired archeological artefacts, giving them a broad experience of Earth science magnetism. As part of the project you will have the opportunity to participate in a range of public engagement activities (Greig Paterson is currently the Outreach Lead for Earth Sciences) as well as the possibility of work experience at the British Geological Survey with researchers who study the modern-day field.

Further Information & Eligibility:
Numeracy/computing skills are essential, and some previous laboratory experience would be useful, but not required. Candidates from underrepresented groups and who have followed a non-traditional education path are strongly encouraged to apply for this position. Funding is available for UK and Irish nationals only. For further information about the project, applicants should contact Dr Greig Paterson on

To apply please visit:

Funding Notes

Funding is available for UK and Irish nationals only


Paterson et al., 2012. G-Cubed, 13, Q05Z43.
Paterson et al., 2017. PNAS, 114, 13120-13125.
Poletti et al., 2017, PEPI, 274, 72-86.
Shaar, et al., 2017. GRL., 44, 2229–2236.

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