Journal of Geodesy

, Volume 93, Issue 10, pp 2003–2017 | Cite as

Correcting surface loading at the observation level: impact on global GNSS and VLBI station networks

  • Benjamin MännelEmail author
  • Henryk Dobslaw
  • Robert Dill
  • Susanne Glaser
  • Kyriakos Balidakis
  • Maik Thomas
  • Harald Schuh
Original Article


Time-dependent mass variations of the near-surface geophysical fluids in atmosphere, oceans and the continental hydrosphere lead to systematic and significant load-induced deformations of the Earth’s crust. The Earth System Modeling group of Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum (ESMGFZ) provides vertical and horizontal surface deformations based on numerical models of the global geophysical fluids in atmosphere, oceans and the continental hydrosphere with a spatial resolution of \(0.5^\circ \) and a temporal sampling of down to 3 h (Dill and Dobslaw in J Geophys Res 118(9):5008–5017, 2013. The assessment of conventionally—i.e. without consideration of non-tidal loading models—processed global GNSS datasets reveals that large parts of the residual station coordinates are indeed related to surface loading effects. Residuals explained by the models often have a pronounced annual component, but variability at other periodicities also contributes to generally high correlations for 7-day averages. More than 10 years of observations from about 400 GNSS and 33 VLBI stations were specifically reprocessed for this study to incorporate non-tidal loading correction models at the observation level. Comparisons with the corresponding conventional processing schemes indicate that the coordinate repeatabilities and residual annual amplitudes decrease by up to 13 mm and 7 mm, respectively, when ESMGFZ’s loading models are applied. In addition, the standard deviation of the daily estimated vertical coordinate is reduced by up to 6.8 mm. The network solutions also allow for an assessment of surface loading effects on GNSS satellite orbits, resulting in radial translations of up to 4 mm and Earth orientation parameters (EOP). In particular, the VLBI-based EOP estimates are critically susceptible to surface loading effects, with root-mean-squared differences reaching of up to 0.2 mas for polar motion, and 10 µs for UT1-UTC.


GNSS VLBI Non-tidal surface loading GNSS orbits Polar motion 



The authors want to thank IGS and IVS for making publicly available GNSS and VLBI observations. All geophysical loading models evaluated herein can be accessed at We would also like to thank three anonymous reviewers for their assistance in evaluating this paper and their helpful recommendations.

Author Contributions

HD, BM, and SG defined the study. BM and KB processed the GNSS and VLBI data. All authors contributed to the analysis, interpretation, and discussion of the results. BM prepared the manuscript with major contributions from RD, HD, SG, and KB and inputs from all authors. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Institute of MeteorologyFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Geodesy and Geoinformation ScienceTechnische Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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