Evaluation of the first GOCE static gravity field models using terrestrial gravity, vertical deflections and EGM2008 quasigeoid heights

C. Hirt, T. Gruber, W. E. Featherstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

78 Citations (Scopus)


Recently, four global geopotential models (GGMs) were computed and released based on the first 2 months of data collected by the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) dedicated satellite gravity field mission. Given that GOCE is a technologically complex mission and different processing strategies were applied to real space-collected GOCE data for the first time, evaluation of the new models is an important aspect. As a first assessment strategy, we use terrestrial gravity data over Switzerland and Australia and astrogeodetic vertical deflections over Europe and Australia as ground-truth data sets for GOCE model evaluation. We apply a spectral enhancement method (SEM) to the truncated GOCE GGMs to make their spectral content more comparable with the terrestrial data. The SEM utilises the high-degree bands of EGM2008 and residual terrain model data as a data source to widely bridge the spectral gap between the satellite and terrestrial data. Analysis of root mean square (RMS) errors is carried out as a function of (i) the GOCE GGM expansion degree and (ii) the four different GOCE GGMs. The RMS curves are also compared against those from EGM2008 and GRACE-based GGMs. As a second assessment strategy, we compare global grids of GOCE GGM and EGM2008 quasigeoid heights. In connection with EGM2008 error estimates, this allows location of regions where GOCE is likely to deliver improved knowledge on the Earth's gravity field. Our ground truth data sets, together with the EGM2008 quasigeoid comparisons, signal clear improvements in the spectral band ~160-165 to ~180-185 in terms of spherical harmonic degrees for the GOCE-based GGMs, fairly independently of the individual GOCE model used. The results from both assessments together provide strong evidence that the first 2 months of GOCE observations improve the knowledge of the Earth's static gravity field at spatial scales between ~125 and ~110 km, particularly over parts of Asia, Africa, South America and Antarctica, in comparison with the pre-GOCE-era.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-740
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geodesy
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes

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