Original Article

Journal of Geodesy

, Volume 87, Issue 1, pp 69-87

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Estimation of mass change trends in the Earth’s system on the basis of GRACE satellite data, with application to Greenland

  • C. SiemesAffiliated withDelft University of TechnologyEuropean Space Agency
  • , P. DitmarAffiliated withDelft University of Technology Email author 
  • , R. E. M. RivaAffiliated withDelft University of Technology
  • , D. C. SlobbeAffiliated withDelft University of Technology
  • , X. L. LiuAffiliated withDelft University of TechnologyFugro Intersite B.V.
  • , H. Hashemi FarahaniAffiliated withDelft University of Technology


The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission measures the Earth’s gravity field since March 2002. We propose a new filtering procedure for post-processing GRACE-based monthly gravity field solutions provided in the form of spherical harmonic coefficients. The procedure is tuned for the optimal estimation of linear trends and other signal components that show a systematic behavior over long time intervals. The key element of the developed methodology is the statistically optimal Wiener-type filter which makes use of the full covariance matrices of noise and signal. The developed methodology is applied to determine the mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet, both per drainage system and integrated, as well as the mass balance of the ice caps on the islands surrounding Greenland. The estimations are performed for three 2-year time intervals (2003–2004, 2005–2006, and 2007–2008), as well as for the 6-year time interval (2003–2008). The study confirms a significant difference in the behavior of the drainage systems over time. The average 6-year rate of mass loss in Greenland is estimated as 165 ± 15 Gt/year. The rate of mass loss of the ice caps on Ellesmere Island (together with Devon Island), Baffin Island, Iceland, and Svalbard is found to be 22 ± 4, 21 ± 6, 17 ± 9, and 6 ± 2 Gt/year, respectively. All these estimates are corrected for the effect of glacial isostatic adjustment.


Satellite gravimetry Time-variable gravity Ice sheet Mass balance