Future benefits of time-varying gravity missions to ocean circulation studies

Type Article
Date 2004-04
Language English
Author(s) Hughes Chris, Le Grand Pascal
Affiliation(s) Proudman Oceanog Lab, Liverpool L3 5DA, Merseyside, England.
IFREMER Brest, Phys Oceanog Lab, F-29280 Plouzane, France.
Source Earth, Moon, and Planets (0167-9295) (Kluwer), 2004-04 , Vol. 94 , N. 1-2 , P. 73-81
DOI 10.1007/s11038-005-0452-6
WOS© Times Cited 1
Keyword(s) Satellite gravity, Ocean bottom pressure, Ocean circulation changes, Abyssal
Abstract A summary is offered of the potential benefits of future measurements of temporal variations in gravity for the understanding of ocean dynamics. Two types of process, and corresponding amplitudes are discussed: ocean basin scale pressure changes, with a corresponding amplitude of order 1 cm of water, or 1 mm of geoid height, and changes in along-slope pressure gradient, at cross-slope length scales corresponding to topographic slopes, with a corresponding amplitude of order 1 mm of water, or a maximum of about 0.01 mm of geoid. The former is feasible with current technology and would provide unprecedented information about abyssal ocean dynamics associated with heat transport and climate. The latter would be a considerable challenge to any foreseeable technology, but would provide an exceptionally clear, quantitative window on the dynamics of abyssal ocean currents, and strong constraints on ocean models. Both options would be limited by the aliassing effect of rapid mass movements in the earth system, and it is recommended that any future mission take this error source explicitly into account at the design stage. For basin-scale oceanography this might involve a higher orbit than GRACE or GOCE, and the advantages of exact-repeat orbits and multiple missions should be considered.
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