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Non-linear motions of Australian geodetic stations induced by non-tidal ocean loading and the passage of tropical cyclones


We investigate daily and sub-daily non-tidal oceanic and atmospheric loading (NTOAL) in the Australian region and put an upper bound on potential site motion examining the effects of tropical cyclone Yasi that crossed the Australian coast in January/February 2011. The dynamic nature of the ocean is important, particularly for northern Australia where the long-term scatter due to daily and sub-daily oceanic changes increases by 20–55 % compared to that estimated using the inverted barometer (IB) assumption. Correcting the daily Global Positioning System (GPS) time series for NTOAL employing either a dynamic ocean model or the IB assumption leads to a reduction of up to 52 % in the weighted scatter of daily coordinate estimates. Differences between the approaches are obscured by seasonal variations in the GPS precision along the northern coast. Two compensating signals during the cyclone require modelling at high spatial and temporal resolution: uplift induced by the atmospheric depression, and subsidence induced by storm surge. The latter dominates (\(>\)135 %) the combined net effect that reaches a maximum of 14 mm, and 10 mm near the closest GPS site TOW2. Here, 96 % of the displacement is reached within 15 h due to the rapid transit of cyclones and the quasi-linear nature of the coastline. Consequently, estimating sub-daily NTOAL is necessary to properly account for such a signal that can be 3.5 times larger than its daily-averaged value. We were unable to detect the deformation signal in 2-hourly GPS processing and show that seasonal noise in the Austral summer dominates and precludes GPS detection of the cyclone-related subsidence.

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A. Mémin was supported by an Australian Research Council Super Science Fellowship (FS110200045). We thank the International GNSS Service and Geoscience Australia for making the GPS data used in this study freely available. The GPS data were computed on the Terrawulf II computational facility at the Research School of Earth Sciences, a facility supported through the AuScope initiative. AuScope Ltd. is funded under the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), an Australian Commonwealth Government Programme. The authors thank F. Lyard and J.-P. Boy for providing the grids of the hydrodynamic Toulouse Unstructured Grid Ocean model. We also thank T. Van Dam for providing the loading time series computed using the ECCO model. The authors acknowledge comments from two anonymous reviewers, T. Van Dam and S. Williams.

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Mémin, A., Watson, C., Haigh, I.D. et al. Non-linear motions of Australian geodetic stations induced by non-tidal ocean loading and the passage of tropical cyclones. J Geod 88, 927–940 (2014).

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  • Non-tidal ocean loading
  • Storm surge loading
  • Global positioning system
  • Australia