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Solid Earth applications of global gravity data: from submarines to satellites

Prof. Vening Meinesz opened up the oceans for high precision gravimetric observations. Today, his submarine adventures are an inspiration to my science and education in gravimetric research. We will follow him along his voyage aboard the K18, along which I will discuss several applications using global gravity field models. The theory of isostasy allows us the use the static gravity field to study GIA processes in Fennoscandia and North America. Also, observed crustal structure from active seismic experiments can be used to correct the gravity field and study the upper mantle. With a regional crustal model of the British Isles and surrounding oceans I was able to study the density variations in the lithospheric mantle underneath the crust. This study revealed a highly varying upper mantle density signature, but compared with seismic tomography large differences were seen. We show that this mismatch can be traced back to regularisation techniques used in seismology. This opened up the study of mantle convection and its interaction with lithosphere. Seismic-derived mantle anomalies are still highly uncertain but might be improved with future gravity-rate datasets. Preliminary studies show potential in reducing the uncertainty in viscosity structure of the Earth. Finally, with the GOCE mission, a new boost has been given to the use of gravity gradients, I discuss an approach in inverting the full gravity gradient tensor estimating density structure of a subducting plate. By showing this variety of studies, I hope to inspire you to use satellite-derived global gravity fields.


Bart Root
Delft University of Technology, Astrodynamics and Space Missions, Delft, the Netherlands
GeoKarlsruhe 2021