THE morphology of the geomagnetic field throughout the Earth's history is of interest first, in a general way, to geomagnetists in terms of long term implications concerning the Earth's core, its thermal regime and the motions in it, and, second, in a very particular way, to palaeomagnetists since the geocentric dipole model is universally used in mapping observed field directions into palaeomagnetic poles. Runcorn1,2 has given strong reasons for supposing the mean geomagnetic field to be symmetrical about the Earth's spin axis. He has also argued3, on the basis of early palaeomagnetic data, that a dipolar field coupled with continental motion is preferable to higher order axial multipole fields. Here I discuss an observational test, based on the much larger body of palaeomagnetic data now available, to discriminate between a dipole field and those of higher order multipoles.
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