Prospects for an ancient dynamo and modern crustal remanent magnetism on Venus

Joseph G. O'Rourke, Cédric Gillmann, Paul Tackley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Venus lacks an internally generated magnetic field today. Whether one existed in the past is unknown, but critical to atmospheric evolution and potential habitability. Canonical models assume the core of Venus is cooling too slowly for convection and thus a magnetic dynamo to occur today. Core/mantle heat flow is suppressed in these models after a putative transition in mantle dynamics associated with widespread, volcanic resurfacing. However, recent studies of impact craters and other surface features support more steady heat loss over geologic time. Precipitation of MgO and/or SiO2 from the core can also drive compositional convection even with slow cooling. Here we reevaluate the likelihood that Venus has an “Earth-like” (at least partially liquid and chemically homogeneous) core using numerical simulations of the coupled atmosphere–surface–mantle–core evolution. An Earth-like core is only compatible with the modern lack of a dynamo if the thermal conductivity of core material is towards the higher end of modern estimates (i.e., >100 W m−1 K−1). If lower estimates like ∼40–50 W m−1 K−1 are actually correct, then we favor recent proposals that the core has completely solidified or preserved primordial stratification. Any simulation initialized with a homogeneous, liquid core predicts a global magnetic field with Earth-like surface strength for >2–3 billion years after accretion—consistent with all available observations—and also sporadic activity within the surface age while temperatures remain below the Curie point of magnetite. Therefore, future spacecraft missions should prioritize the first-ever magnetometer measurements below the ionosphere to search for crustal remanent magnetism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-56
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Nov 15 2018


  • Venus
  • Venus, interior
  • Venus, surface
  • accretion
  • magnetic fields

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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