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Degradation of Geopotential Recovery from Short Repeat-Cycle Orbits: Application to GRACE Monthly Fields

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Throughout 2004 the GRACE (Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment) orbit contracted slowly to yield a sparse repeat track of 61 revolutions every 4 days on 19 September 2004. As a result, we show from linear perturbation theory that geopotential information previously available to fully resolve a gravity field every month of 120× 120 (degree by order) in spherical harmonics was compressed then into about one-fourth of the necessary observation space. We estimate from this theory that the ideal gravity field resolution in September 2004 was only about 30 × 30. More generally, we show that any repeat-cycle mission for geopotential recovery with full resolution L × L requires the number of orbit-revolutions-to-repeat to be greater than 2L.

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Correspondence to C. Wagner.

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Wagner, C., McAdoo, D., Klokočník, J. et al. Degradation of Geopotential Recovery from Short Repeat-Cycle Orbits: Application to GRACE Monthly Fields. J Geodesy 80, 94–103 (2006).

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