GOCE and Science Applications
Rummel, Reiner; Yi, Weiyong; Albertella, Alberta
IAPG / Techn Univ Munich, GERMANY
GOCE is in its final mission phase. Since March 2009 it delivers excellent science data on the earth's gravity field and geoid. It is the first satellite ever equipped with a gravitational gradiometer.
The mission delivers a significantly improved global geoid and gravity anomaly field, in particular in areas such as (large parts of) South America, Africa, the Himalaya region and South-East Asia. Of great importance is the new geoid and gravity information collected in Antarctica, where terrestrial data are still sparse. But also ocean areas and in particular the Southern Ocean benefit from the results delivered by GOCE.
Based on the GOCE geoid and the mean sea surface from twenty years of continuous satellite altimetry excellent data sets of mean dynamic ocean topography (MDT) have recently been derived. The MDT-estimates are accurate, rather detailed and completely independent of in-situ ocean oceanographic data or ocean modeling. Experiments of the effect of the assimilation of these data sets into numerical ocean circulation models look promising.
The analogous application of the GOCE geoid on land is referred to as "leveling by GPS". In a straightforward manner the technique can be applied to the unification of global height systems, to the comparison of mean sea level at tide gauges and to the routine conversion of ellipsoidal heights (from GPS) to physical heights above the geoid.
In geophysics, the main focus of on-going research is on the study of isostatic (im-) balance of topographic masses and on the direct use of the observed gravity gradients for tectonic studies. Mass balance is studies by comparing GOCE gravity and the synthetic gravity signal as derived from topographic models. Focus areas are South America, Africa and the Himalaya region.