Does Poisson’s downward continuation give physically meaningful results?
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The downward continuation (DWC) of the gravity anomalies from the Earth’s surface to the geoid is still probably the most problematic step in the precise geoid determination. It is this step that motivates the quasi-geoid users to opt for Molodenskij’s rather than Stokes’s theory. The reason for this is that the DWC is perceived as suffering from two major flaws: first, a physically meaningful DWC technique requires the knowledge of the irregular topographical density; second, the Poisson DWC, which is the only physically meaningful technique we know, presents itself mathematically in the form of Fredholm integral equation of the 1st kind. As Fredholm integral equations are often numerically ill-conditioned, this makes some people believe that the DWC problem is physically ill-posed. According to a revered French mathematician Hadamard, the DWC problem is physically well-posed and as such gives always a finite and unique solution. The necessity of knowing the topographical density is, of course, a real problem but one that is being solved with an ever increasing accuracy; so sooner or later it will allow us to determine the geoid with the centimetre accuracy.
Keywordsinverse problem convergence Jacobi iterations Poisson integral equation convexity of equipotential surfaces physical constraints
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