Journal of Geodesy

, Volume 75, Issue 1, pp 12–18 | Cite as

Computation of spherical harmonic coefficients and their error estimates using least-squares collocation

  • C. C. Tscherning


 Equations expressing the covariances between spherical harmonic coefficients and linear functionals applied on the anomalous gravity potential, T, are derived. The functionals are the evaluation functionals, and those associated with first- and second-order derivatives of T. These equations form the basis for the prediction of spherical harmonic coefficients using least-squares collocation (LSC). The equations were implemented in the GRAVSOFT program GEOCOL. Initially, tests using EGM96 were performed using global and regional sets of geoid heights, gravity anomalies and second-order vertical gravity gradients at ground level and at altitude. The global tests confirm that coefficients may be estimated consistently using LSC while the error estimates are much too large for the lower-order coefficients. The validity of an error estimate calculated using LSC with an isotropic covariance function is based on a hypothesis that the coefficients of a specific degree all belong to the same normal distribution. However, the coefficients of lower degree do not fulfil this, and this seems to be the reason for the too-pessimistic error estimates. In order to test this the coefficients of EGM96 were perturbed, so that the pertubations for a specific degree all belonged to a normal distribution with the variance equal to the mean error variance of the coefficients. The pertubations were used to generate residual geoid heights, gravity anomalies and second-order vertical gravity gradients. These data were then used to calculate estimates of the perturbed coefficients as well as error estimates of the quantities, which now have a very good agreement with the errors computed from the simulated observed minus calculated coefficients. Tests with regionally distributed data showed that long-wavelength information is lost, but also that it seems to be recovered for specific coefficients depending on where the data are located.

Key words: Spherical harmonic coefficients Error estimation Least-squares collocation 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. C. Tscherning
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geophysics, Juliane Maries Vej 30, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark e-mail:; Tel.: +45 35 32 05 82; Fax: +45 35 36 53 57DK

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