Journal of Geodesy

, Volume 88, Issue 11, pp 1029–1046 | Cite as

Assessment of observing time-variable gravity from GOCE GPS and accelerometer observations

  • P. N. A. M. VisserEmail author
  • W. van der Wal
  • E. J. O. Schrama
  • J. van den IJssel
  • J. Bouman
Original Article


An assessment has been made of the possibility to estimate time-variable gravity from GPS-derived orbit perturbations and common-mode accelerometer observations of ESA’s GOCE Earth Explorer. A number of 20-day time series of Earth’s global long-wavelength gravity field have been derived for the period November 2009 to November 2012 using different parameter setups and estimation techniques. These techniques include a conventional approach where for each period, one set of gravity coefficients is estimated, either excluding or including empirical accelerations, and the so-called Wiese approach where higher frequency coefficients are estimated for the very long wavelengths. A principal component analysis of especially the time series of gravity field coefficients obtained by the Wiese approach and the conventional approach with empirical accelerations reveals an annual signal. When fitting this annual signal directly through the time series, the sine component (maximum in spring) displays features that are similar to well-known continental hydrological mass changes for the low latitude areas, such as mass variations in the Amazon basin, Africa and Australia for spatial scales down to 1,500 km. The cosine component (maximum in winter), however, displays large signals that can not be attributed to actual mass variations in the Earth system. The estimated gravity field changes from GOCE orbit perturbations are likely affected by missing GPS observations in case of high ionospheric perturbations during periods of increased solar activity, which is minimal in Summer and maximal towards the end of autumn.


GOCE Kinematic orbits Long-wavelength time-variable gravity Ionospheric perturbations Wiese approach 



ESA is acknowledged for supporting this study through the Support To Science Element (STSE) program and for providing the GOCE observations. D. Rowlands, F. Lemoine and S. Goossens from NASA/GSFC kindly provided the GEOYDN software and the GOT4.7 ocean tides model. The CHAMP time-variable solutions were provided by Matthias Weigelt through the International Center for Global Gravity Field Models (ICGEM).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. N. A. M. Visser
    • 1
    Email author
  • W. van der Wal
    • 1
  • E. J. O. Schrama
    • 1
  • J. van den IJssel
    • 1
  • J. Bouman
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of Aerospace EngineeringDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Deutsches Geodätisches ForschungsinstitutMunichGermany

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