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Forward Gravity Modelling to Augment High-Resolution Combined Gravity Field Models

Ince, E. Sinem; Abrykosov, Oleh; Förste, Christoph; Flechtner, Frank

During the last few years, the determination of high-resolution global gravity field has gained momentum due to high-accuracy satellite-derived observations and development of forward gravity modelling. Forward modelling computes the global gravitational field from mass distribution sources instead of actual gravity measurements and helps improving and complementing the medium to high-frequency components of the global gravity field models. In this study, we approximate the global gravity potential of the Earth’s upper crust based on ellipsoidal approximation and a mass layer concept. Such an approach has an advantage of spectral methods and also avoids possible instabilities due to the use of a sequence of thin ellipsoidal shells. Lateral density within these volumetric shells bounded by confocal lower and upper shell ellipsoids is used in the computation of the ellipsoidal harmonic coefficients which are then transformed into spherical harmonic coefficients on the Earth’s surface in the final step. The main outcome of this research is a spectral representation of the gravitatioal potential of the Earth’s upper crust, computed up to degree and order 3660 in terms of spherical harmonic coefficients (ROLI_EllApprox_SphN_3660). We evaluate our methodology by comparing this model with other similar forward models in the literature which show sub-cm agreement in terms of geoid undulations. Finally, EIGEN-6C4 is augmented by ROLI_EllApprox_SphN_3660 and the gravity field functionals computed from the expanded model which has about 5 km half-wavelength spatial resolution are compared w.r.t. ground-truth data in different regions worldwide. Our investigations show that the contribution of the topographic model increases the agreement up to ~ 20% in the gravity value comparisons.
Published in: Surveys in Geophysics, 10.1007/s10712-020-09590-9, Springer