Journal of Geodesy

, Volume 84, Issue 1, pp 19–30 | Cite as

Atmospheric and oceanic forcing of the rapid polar motion

  • Christian BizouardEmail author
  • L. Seoane
Original Article


The rapid polar motion for periods below 20 days is revisited in light of the most recent and accurate geodetic and geophysical data. Although its amplitude is smaller than 2 mas, it is excited mostly by powerful atmospheric processes, as large as the seasonal ones. The residual amplitude, representing about 20% of the total excitation, stems from the oceans. Rapid polar motion has an irregular nature that is well explained by the combined influence of the atmosphere and the oceans. An overall spectrum reveals cycles principally at 20, 13.6 (fortnightly tidal period) and 10 days (corresponding to the normal atmospheric mode \({\Psi_3^1}\)), but this is only an averaged feature hiding its strong variability over seasonal time scales. This explains why it is so delicate to determine an empirical model of the tidal effect on polar motion. The variability in both amplitude and phase of the 13.6-day term is probably caused by a lunar barometric effect, modulated by some sub-seasonal thermal processes. The irregularities of the prominent cycles of the short-term polar motion are well explained by the atmospheric and oceanic excitations. The oceanic variability reinforces the atmospheric one, as they were triggered by the same agent, maybe seasonal and inter-annual thermal variations.


Earth rotation Rapid polar motion Atmosphere Oceans Excitation Lunar tide 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Paris Observatory, SYRTEParisFrance

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