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Recent results on modelling the spatial and temporal structure of the Earth's gravity field

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Philip Moore, Dr Qiang Zhang, Abdulaziz Alothman


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The Earth's gravity field plays a central role in sea-level change. In the simplest application a precise gravity field will enable oceanographers to capitalize fully on the altimetric datasets collected over the past decade or more by providing a geoid from which absolute sea-level topography can be recovered. However, the concept of a static gravity field is now redundant as we can observe temporal variability in the geoid due to mass redistribution in or on the total Earth system. Temporal variability, associated with interactions between the land, oceans and atmosphere, can be investigated through mass redistributions with, for example, flow of water from the land being balanced by an increase in ocean mass. Furthermore, as ocean transport is an important contributor to the mass redistribution the time varying gravity field can also be used to validate Global Ocean Circulation models. This paper will review the recent history of static and temporal gravity field recovery, from the 1980s to the present day. In particular, mention will be made of the role of satellite laser ranging and other space tracking techniques, satellite altimetry and in situ gravity which formed the basis of gravity field determination until the last few years. With the launch of Challenging Microsatellite Payload and Gravity and Circulation Experiment (GRACE) our knowledge of the spatial distribution of the Earth's gravity field is taking a leap forward. Furthermore, GRACE is now providing insight into temporal variability through 'monthly' gravity field solutions. Prior to this data we relied on satellite tracking, Global Positioning System and geophysical models to give us insight into the temporal variability. We will consider results from these methodologies and compare them to preliminary results from the GRACE mission. © 2006 The Royal Society.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Moore P, Zhang Q, Alothman A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences

Year: 2006

Volume: 364

Issue: 1841

Pages: 1009-1026

ISSN (print): 1364-5021

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2946

Publisher: The Royal Society Publishing


DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2006.1751


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