High Resolution Constituents of the Earth’s Gravitational Field


During the General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union in April 2008, the new Earth Gravitational Model 2008 (EGM08) was released with fully-normalized coefficients in the spherical harmonic expansion of the Earth’s gravitational potential complete to degree and order 2159 (for selected degrees up to 2190). EGM08 was derived through combination of a satellite-based geopotential model and 5 arcmin mean ground gravity data. Spherical harmonic coefficients of the global height function, that describes the surface of the solid Earth with the same angular resolution as EGM08, became available at the same time. This global topographical model can be used for estimation of selected constituents of EGM08, namely the gravitational potentials of the Earth’s atmosphere, ocean water (fluid masses below the geoid) and topographical masses (solid masses above the geoid), which can be evaluated numerically through spherical harmonic expansions. The spectral properties of the respective potential coefficients are studied in terms of power spectra and their relation to the EGM08 potential coefficients is analyzed by using correlation coefficients. The power spectra of the topographical and sea water potentials exceed the power of the EGM08 potential over substantial parts of the considered spectrum indicating large effects of global isostasy. The correlation analysis reveals significant correlations of all three potentials with the EGM08 potential. The potential constituents (namely their functionals such as directional derivatives) can be used for a step known in geodesy and geophysics as the gravity field reduction or stripping. Removing from EGM08 known constituents will help to analyze the internal structure of the Earth (geophysics) as well as to derive the Earth’s gravitational field harmonic outside the geoid (geodesy).

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The study was supported by the Czech Science Foundation (grant 205/08/1103) and the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (project MSM4977751301). The comments and suggestions of three anonymous reviewers are highly appreciated.

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Correspondence to Pavel Novák.

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Novák, P. High Resolution Constituents of the Earth’s Gravitational Field. Surv Geophys 31, 1 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10712-009-9077-z

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  • Atmosphere
  • Correlation
  • Earth gravitational model
  • Gravity reduction and stripping
  • Gravitational potential
  • Ocean water
  • Power spectrum
  • Spherical harmonic series
  • Topography