, Volume 86, Issue 11, pp 1043-1057,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 06 May 2012

Nontidal ocean loading: amplitudes and potential effects in GPS height time series


Ocean bottom pressure (OBP) changes are caused by a redistribution of the ocean’s internal mass that are driven by atmospheric circulation, a change in the mass entering or leaving the ocean, and/or a change in the integrated atmospheric mass over the ocean areas. The only previous global analysis investigating the magnitude of OBP surface displacements used older OBP data sets (van Dam et al. in J Geophys Res 129:507–517, 1997). Since then significant improvements in meteorological forcing models used to predict OBP have been made, augmented by observations from satellite altimetry and expendable bathythermograph profiles. Using more recent OBP estimates from the Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean (ECCO) project, we reassess the amplitude of the predicted effect of OBP on the height coordinate time series from a global distribution of GPS stations. OBP-predicted loading effects display an RMS scatter in the height of between 0.2 and 3.7 mm, larger than previously reported but still much smaller (by a factor of 2) than the scatter observed due to atmospheric pressure loading. Given the improvement in GPS hardware and data analysis techniques, the OBP signal is similar to the precision of weekly GPS height coordinates. We estimate the effect of OBP on GPS height coordinate time series using the MIT reprocessed solution, mi1. When we compare the predicted OBP height time series with mi1, we find that the scatter is reduced over all stations by 0.1 mm on average with reductions as high as 0.7 mm at some stations. More importantly we are able to reduce the scatter on 65 % of the stations investigated. The annual component of the OBP signal is responsible for 80 % of the reduction in scatter on average. We find that stations located close to semi-enclosed bays or seas are affected by OBP loading to a greater extent than other stations.