Surveys in Geophysics

, Volume 36, Issue 6, pp 743–772 | Cite as

Science and User Needs for Observing Global Mass Transport to Understand Global Change and to Benefit Society

  • Roland PailEmail author
  • Rory Bingham
  • Carla Braitenberg
  • Henryk Dobslaw
  • Annette Eicker
  • Andreas Güntner
  • Martin Horwath
  • Eric Ivins
  • Laurent Longuevergne
  • Isabelle Panet
  • Bert Wouters
  • IUGG Expert Panel


Satellite gravimetry is a unique measurement technique for observing mass transport processes in the Earth system on a global scale, providing essential indicators of both subtle and dramatic global change. Although past and current satellite gravity missions have achieved spectacular science results, due to their limited spatial and temporal resolution as well as limited length of the available time series numerous important questions are still unresolved. Therefore, it is important to move from current demonstration capabilities to sustained observation of the Earth’s gravity field. In an international initiative performed under the umbrella of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, consensus on the science and user needs for a future satellite gravity observing system has been derived by an international panel of scientists representing the main fields of application, i.e., continental hydrology, cryosphere, ocean, atmosphere and solid Earth. In this paper the main results and findings of this initiative are summarized. The required target performance in terms of equivalent water height has been identified as 5 cm for monthly fields and 0.5 cm/year for long-term trends at a spatial resolution of 150 km. The benefits to meet the main scientific and societal objectives are investigated, and the added value is demonstrated for selected case studies covering the main fields of application. The resulting consolidated view on the required performance of a future sustained satellite gravity observing system represents a solid basis for the definition of technological and mission requirements, and is a prerequisite for mission design studies of future mission concepts and constellations.


Mass transport Earth system science Satellite gravimetry Sustained observation Climate change 



The contributions by more than 70 international scientists to this project initiative is highly acknowledged. We also acknowledge the valuable comments of two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roland Pail
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rory Bingham
    • 2
  • Carla Braitenberg
    • 3
  • Henryk Dobslaw
    • 4
  • Annette Eicker
    • 5
  • Andreas Güntner
    • 4
  • Martin Horwath
    • 6
  • Eric Ivins
    • 7
  • Laurent Longuevergne
    • 8
  • Isabelle Panet
    • 9
  • Bert Wouters
    • 2
    • 10
  • IUGG Expert Panel
  1. 1.Institute of Astronomical and Physical GeodesyTechnische Universität MünchenMunichGermany
  2. 2.Bristol Glaciology Centre, School of Geographical SciencesUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  3. 3.Dipartimento di Matematica e GeoscienzeUniversita’ degli Studi di TriesteTriesteItaly
  4. 4.Deutsches Geoforschungszentrum GFZPotsdamGermany
  5. 5.Institute of Geodesy and GeoinformationUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
  6. 6.Institut für Planetare GeodäsieTechnische Universität DresdenDresdenGermany
  7. 7.Jet Propulsion LaboratoryPasadenaUSA
  8. 8.Géosciences Rennes - UMR 6118Université Rennes 1Rennes CedexFrance
  9. 9.Laboratoire de Recherche en GéodésieInstitut Géographique NationalMarne la Vallée Cedex 2France
  10. 10.Department of PhysicsUniversity of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA

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