The European gravity field and steady-state ocean circulation explorer satellite mission: its impact on geophysics
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Current knowledge of the Earth’s gravity field and its geoid, as derived from various observing techniques and sources, is incomplete. Within a reasonable time, substantial improvement will come by exploiting new approaches based on spaceborne gravity observation. Among these, the European Space Agency (ESA) Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite mission concept has been conceived and designed taking into account multi-disciplinary research objectives in solid Earth physics, oceanography and geodesy. Based on the unique capability of a gravity gradiometer combined with satellite-to-satellite high-low tracking techniques, an accurate and detailed global model of the Earth’s gravity field and its corresponding geoid will be recovered. The importance of this is demonstrated by a series of realistic simulation experiments. In particular, the quantitative impact of the new and accurate gravity field and geoid is examined in studies of tectonic composition and motion, Glaciological Isostatic Adjustment, ocean mesoscale variability, water mass transport, and unification of height systems. Improved knowledge in each of these fields will also ensure the accumulation of new understanding of past and present sea-level changes.