Paleomagnetism is the study of the fossil magnetism in rocks. It has been paramount in determining that the continents have drifted over the surface of the Earth throughout geological time. The fossil magnetism preserved in the ocean floor has demonstrated how continental drift takes place through the process of sea-floor spreading. The methods and techniques used in paleomagnetic studies of continental rocks and of the ocean floor are described and then applied to determining horizontal movements of the Earth's crust over geological time. An up-to-date review of global paleomagnetic data enables 1000 million years of Earth history to be summarized in terms of the drift of the major crustal blocks over the surface of the Earth.

The first edition of McElhinny's book was heralded as a "classic and definitive text." It thoroughly discussed the theory of geomagnetism, the geologic reversals of the Earth's magnetic field, and the shifting of magnetic poles. In the 25 years since the highly successful first edition of Palaeomagnetism and Plate Tectonics (Cambridge, 1973) the many advances in the concepts, methodology, and insights into paleomagnetism warrant this new treatment. This completely updated and revised edition of Paleomagnetism: Continents and Oceans will be a welcome resource for a broad audience of earth scientists as well as laypeople curious about magnetism, paleogeography, geology, and plate tectonics.

Because the book is intended for a wide audience of geologists, geophysicists, and oceanographers, it balances the mathematical and descriptive aspects of each topic.

Key Features

  • Details the theory and methodology of rock magnetism, with particular emphasis on intrepreting crustal movements from continental and oceanic measurements
  • Outlines Earth history for the past 1000 million years, from the Rodinia super-continent through its breakup and the formation of Gondwana to the formation and breakup of Pangea and the amalgamation of Eurasia
  • Provides a comprehensive treatment of oceanic paleomagnetism
  • Provides a set of color pateogeographic maps covering the past 250 million years
  • Written by two internationally recognized experts in the field


Undergraduate students, geologists, geophysicists, and earth scientists who are attracted to McElhinny's approachable writing style.

Table of Contents

Geomagnetism and Paleomagnetism. Geomagnetism. Historical. Main Features of the Geomagnetic Field. Origin of the Main Field. Variations of the Dipole Field with Time. Paleomagnetism. Early Work in Paleomagnetism. Magnetism in Rocks. Geocentric Axial Dipole Hypothesis. Archeomagnetism. Paleointensity Over Geological Times. Paleosecular Variation. Rock Magnetism. Basic Principles of Magnetism. Magnetic Fields, Remanent and Induced Magnetism. Diamagnetism and Paramagnetism. Ferro-, Antiferro- and Ferrimagnetism. Hysteresis. Magnetic Minerals in Rocks. Mineralogy. Titanomagnetites. Titanohematites. Iron Sulfides and Oxyhydroxides. Physical Theory of Rock Magnetism. Magnetic Domains. Theory for Single Domain Grains. Magnetic Viscosity. Critical Size for Single Domain Grains. Thermoremanent Magnetization. Crystallization (or Chemical)Remanent Magnetization. Detrital and Post-Depositional Remanent Magnetization. Viscous and Thermoviscous Remanent Magnetization. Stress Effects and Anisotropy. Methods and Techniques. Sampling and Measurement. Sample Collection in the Field. Sample Measurement. Statistical Methods. Some Statistical Concepts. The Fisher Distribution. Statistical Tests. Calculating Paleomagnetic Poles and Their Errors. Other Statistical Distributions. Field Tests for Stability. Constraining the Age of Magnetization. The Fold Test. Conglomerate Test. Baked Contact Test. Unconformity Test. Consistency and Reversals Tests. Laboratory Methods and Applications. Progressive Stepwise Demagnetization. Presentation of Demagnetization Data. Principal Component Analysis. Analysis of Remagnetization Circles. Identification of Magnetic Minerals and Grain Sizes. Curie Temperatures. Isothermal Remanent Magnetization. The Lowrie-Fuller Test. Hysteresis and Magnetic Grain Sizes. Low-Temperature Measurements. Magnetic Field Reversals. Evidence for Field Reversal. Background and Definition. Self-Reversal in Rocks


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© 2000
Academic Press
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About the editors

Michael McElhinny

Michael W. McElhinny is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and recipient of its Mawson Medal, a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and recipient of its Fleming Medal, and an Honorary Fellow of the Geological Society of America.

Affiliations and Expertise

Godwana Consultants, New South Wales, Australia

Phillip McFadden

Phillip L. McFadden is Chief Research Scientist in the Australian Geological Survey Organization, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and a recipient of the Jubilee Medal of the Geological Society of South Africa.

Affiliations and Expertise

Australian Geological Survey Organization, Canberra, Australia


"Overall, there are many impressive things about this book. The concise writing style, objective assessment of data, rigorous numerical analysis, and the shear breadth of material covered all combine to convey an overwhelming sense of authority. However, what pleased me most was the way in which it grew from the nuts and bolts of geomagnetic and paleomagnetic measurements and analyses, to finish with something approaching a unified theory of a billion years of geological history. In the end, I was enthralled!" --Brad Pillans, Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra

"McElhinny and McFadden's work follows up the excellent volume, The Magnetic Field of the Earth: Paleomagnetism, the Core, and the Deep Mantle, by Ronald T. Merrill, McElhinny, and McFadden (CH, Feb '97), which necessitates some overlap. It represents an excellent effort by the authors... It is probably the most up-to-date work available paleomagnetism. ...the best book for teaching paleomagnetism. Upper-division undergraduates and up." --M.S. Field, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;CHOICE MAGAZINE, 2000

"The book focuses more on natural aspects of paleomagnetism and its importance for geology. Some fields, e.g., statistical methods in paleomagnetism and paleomagnetism of the oceanic floor are covered extensively, showing current state-of-the-art to the extent hardly met in other geophysical books. This book also has its own well balanced scientific philosophy which is based on well selected, firm observations." --Pure and Applied Geophysics, 158, 2001