Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 339-386

First online:

The European Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer Satellite Mission Its Impact on Geophysics

  • J. A. JohannessenAffiliated withNansen Environmental and Remote Sensing CenterGeophysical Institute, University of Bergen
  • , G. BalminoAffiliated withCentre National d`Etudes Spatiales – GRGS
  • , C. Le ProvostAffiliated withLaboratoire d'Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales
  • , R. RummelAffiliated withAstronomical and Physical Geodetic Institute, Technical University of Munich
  • , R. SabadiniAffiliated withDipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Universitá di Milano
  • , H. SünkelAffiliated withMathematical Geodesy and Geoinformatics, Technical University of Graz
  • , C.C. TscherningAffiliated withDepartment of Geophysics, University of Copenhagen
  • , P. VisserAffiliated withDelft Institute for Earth-Oriented Space Research, Delft University of Technology
  • , P. WoodworthAffiliated withProudman Oceanographic Laboratory, Bidston Observatory
    • , C. HughesAffiliated withProudman Oceanographic Laboratory, Bidston Observatory
    • , P. LegrandAffiliated withIFREMER, Physical Oceanography Department, Technopole Brest Iroise
    • , N. SneeuwAffiliated withAstronomical and Physical Geodetic Institute, Technical University of MunichDepartment of Geomatics Engineering, University of Calgary
    • , F. PerosanzAffiliated withCentre National d`Etudes Spatiales – GRGS
    • , M. Aguirre-MartinezAffiliated withEuropean Space Agency - ESTEC
    • , H. RebhanAffiliated withEuropean Space Agency - ESTEC
    • , M. DrinkwaterAffiliated withEuropean Space Agency - ESTEC

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Current knowledge of the Earth's gravity field and its geoid, as derived from various observing techniques and sources, is incomplete. Within a reasonable time, substantial improvement will come by exploiting new approaches based on spaceborne gravity observation. Among these, the European Space Agency (ESA) Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite mission concept has been conceived and designed taking into account multi-disciplinary research objectives in solid Earth physics, oceanography and geodesy. Based on the unique capability of a gravity gradiometer combined with satellite-to-satellite high-low tracking techniques, an accurate and detailed global model of the Earth's gravity field and its corresponding geoid will be recovered. The importance of this is demonstrated by a series of realistic simulation experiments. In particular, the quantitative impact of the new and accurate gravity field and geoid is examined in studies of tectonic composition and motion, Glaciological Isostatic Adjustment, ocean mesoscale variability, water mass transport, and unification of height systems. Improved knowledge in each of these fields will also ensure the accumulation of new understanding of past and present sea-level changes.