Encyclopedia of Geomagnetism and Paleomagnetism

2007 Edition
| Editors: David Gubbins, Emilio Herrero-Bervera

Alfvén Waves

  • Christopher Finlay
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4423-6_3

Introduction and historical details

Alfvén waves are transverse magnetic tension waves that travel along magnetic field lines and can be excited in any electrically conducting fluid permeated by a magnetic field.  Hannes Alfvén (q.v.) deduced their existence from the equations of electromagnetism and hydrodynamics (Alfvén, 1942). Experimental confirmation of his prediction was found seven years later in studies of waves in liquid mercury (Lundquist, 1949). Alfvén waves are now known to be an important mechanism for transporting energy and momentum in many geophysical and astrophysical hydromagnetic systems. They have been observed in Earth's magnetosphere (Voigt, 2002), in interplanetary plasmas (Tsurutani and Ho, 1999), and in the solar photosphere (Nakariakov et al., 1999). The ubiquitous nature of Alfvén waves and their role in communicating the effects of changes in electric currents and magnetic fields has ensured that they remain the focus of increasingly detailed laboratory...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Alfvén, H., 1942. Existence of electromagnetic‐hydrodynamic waves. Nature, 150: 405–406.Google Scholar
  2. Alfvén, H., and Fälthammar, C.‐G., 1963. Cosmical Electrodynamics, Fundamental Principles. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bloxham, J., Zatman, S., and Dumberry, M., 2002. The origin of geomagnetic jerks. Nature, 420: 65–68.Google Scholar
  4. Braginsky, S.I., 1970. Torsional magnetohydrodynamic vibrations in the Earth's core and variations in day length. Geomagnetism and Aeronomy, 10: 1–10.Google Scholar
  5. Buffett, B.A., and Mound, J.E., 2005. A Green's function for the excitation of torsional oscillations in Earth's core. Journal of Geophysical Research, Vol. 110, B08104, doi: 10.1029/2004JB003495.Google Scholar
  6. Davidson, P.A., 2001. An introduction to Magnetohydrodynamics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Dumberry, M., and Bloxham, J., 2003. Torque balance, Taylor's constraint and torsional oscillations in a numerical model of the geodynamo. Physics of Earth and Planetary. Interiors, 140: 29–51.Google Scholar
  8. Gekelman, W., 1999. Review of laboratory experiments on Alfvén waves and their relationship to space observations. Journal of Geophysical Research, 104: 14417–14435.Google Scholar
  9. Hide, R., Boggs, D.H., and Dickey, J.O., 2000. Angular momentum fluctuations within the Earth's liquid core and solid mantle. Geophysical Journal International, 125: 777–786.Google Scholar
  10. Jault, D., 2003. Electromagnetic and topographic coupling, and LOD variations. In Jones, C.A., Soward, A.M., and Zhang, K., (eds.), Earth's core and lower mantle. The Fluid Mechanics of Astrophysics and Geophysics, 11: 56–76.Google Scholar
  11. Lundquist, S., 1949. Experimental investigations of magneto‐hydrodynamic waves. Physical Review, 107: 1805–1809.Google Scholar
  12. Moffatt, H.K., 1978. Magnetic Field Generation in Electrically Conducting Fluids. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Nakariakov, V.M., Ofman, L., DeLuca, E.E., Roberts, B., and Davila, J.M., 1999. TRACE observation of damped coronal loop oscillations: Implications for coronal heating. Science, 285: 862–864.Google Scholar
  14. Tsurutani, B.T., and Ho, C.M., 1999. A review of discontinuities and Alfvén waves in interplanetary space: Ulysses results. Reviews of Geophysics, 37: 517–541.Google Scholar
  15. Voigt, J., 2002. Alfvén wave coupling in the auroral current circuit. Surveys in Geophysics, 23: 335–377.Google Scholar
  16. Zatman, S., and Bloxham, J., 1997. Torsional oscillations and the magnetic field within the Earth's core. Nature, 388: 760–763.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher Finlay

There are no affiliations available