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Comparison of spectral and spatial methods for a Moho recovery from gravity and vertical gravity-gradient data


In global studies investigating the Earth’s lithospheric structure, the spectral expressions for the gravimetric forward and inverse modeling of the global gravitational and crustal structure models are preferably used, because of their numerical efficiency. In regional studies, the applied numerical schemes typically utilize the expressions in spatial form. Since the gravity-gradient observations have a more localized support than the gravity measurements, the gravity-gradient data (such as products from the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer - GOCE - gravity-gradiometry satellite mission) could preferably be used in regional studies, because of reducing significantly the spatial data-coverage required for a regional inversion or interpretation. In this study, we investigate this aspect in context of a regional Moho recovery. In particular, we compare the numerical performance of solving the Vening Meinesz-Moritz’s (VMM) inverse problem of isostasy in spectral and spatial domains from the gravity and (vertical) gravity-gradient data. We demonstrate that the VMM spectral solutions from the gravity and gravity-gradient data are (almost) the same, while the VMM spatial solutions differ from the corresponding spectral solutions, especially when using the gravity-gradient data. The validation of the VMM solutions, however, reveals that the VMM spatial solution from the gravity-gradient data has a slightly better agreement with seismic models. A more detailed numerical analysis shows that the VMM spatial solution formulated for the gravity gradient is very sensitive to horizontal spatial variations of the vertical gravity gradient, especially in vicinity of the computation point. Consequently, this solution provides better results in regions with a relatively well-known crustal structure, while suppressing errors caused by crustal model uncertainties from distant zones. Based on these findings we argue that the gravity-gradient data are more suitable than the gravity data for a regional Moho recovery.


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Ye, Z., Tenzer, R. & Liu, L. Comparison of spectral and spatial methods for a Moho recovery from gravity and vertical gravity-gradient data. Stud Geophys Geod 61, 469–496 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11200-016-1049-4

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  • crust
  • GOCE
  • gravity
  • isostasy
  • Moho