We study the paleomagnetic record for many reasons, with the most fundamental being the reconstruction of the past history of the geomagnetic field. Paleo-geomagnetic observations help define fundamental models of the geodynamo that operates within the liquid outer core and generates the geomagnetic field. Change is the one geomagnetic constant and understanding the causes and consequences of this change is key for deciphering the geodynamo, developing magnetic dating techniques and assessing the influence of the magnetosphere on Earth surface processes.
At present, however, we have no predictive power to tell us when past changes have occurred, much less when they are likely to do so again. A significant goal of the lab is the development of paleomagnetic observational data sets that will allow us to better understand the mechanisms behind, and the impacts of, geomagnetic change.
The figure above is a snapshot of a numerical geodynamo model showing field generation at the surface of the core (Glaztmier and Roberts, 1995) providing a way to visualize the geomagnetic field.