Journal of Geodesy

, Volume 86, Issue 9, pp 775–783

Estimating rate uncertainty with maximum likelihood: differences between power-law and flicker–random-walk models

Open Access
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00190-012-0556-5

Cite this article as:
Langbein, J. J Geod (2012) 86: 775. doi:10.1007/s00190-012-0556-5


Recent studies have documented that global positioning system (GPS) time series of position estimates have temporal correlations which have been modeled as a combination of power-law and white noise processes. When estimating quantities such as a constant rate from GPS time series data, the estimated uncertainties on these quantities are more realistic when using a noise model that includes temporal correlations than simply assuming temporally uncorrelated noise. However, the choice of the specific representation of correlated noise can affect the estimate of uncertainty. For many GPS time series, the background noise can be represented by either: (1) a sum of flicker and random-walk noise or, (2) as a power-law noise model that represents an average of the flicker and random-walk noise. For instance, if the underlying noise model is a combination of flicker and random-walk noise, then incorrectly choosing the power-law model could underestimate the rate uncertainty by a factor of two. Distinguishing between the two alternate noise models is difficult since the flicker component can dominate the assessment of the noise properties because it is spread over a significant portion of the measurable frequency band. But, although not necessarily detectable, the random-walk component can be a major constituent of the estimated rate uncertainty. None the less, it is possible to determine the upper bound on the random-walk noise.


Rate Uncertainty Bias Least squares 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.US Geological SurveyEarthquake Science CenterMenlo ParkUSA

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