Modeling Horizontal GPS Seasonal Signals Caused by Ocean Loading

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Noel M Bartlow and Yuri A Fialko, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States
GPS monuments around the world exhibit seasonal signals in both the horizontal and vertical components with amplitudes on the order of centimeters. For analysis of tectonic signals, researchers typically fit and remove a sine wave with an annual period, and sometimes an additional sine wave with a semiannual period. As interest grows in analyzing smaller, slower signals it becomes more important to correct for these seasonal signals accurately. It is well established that the vertical component of seasonal GPS signals is largely due to continental water storage cycles (e.g. van Dam et al., GRL, 2001). Horizontal seasonal signals however are not well explained by continental water storage. We examine horizontal seasonal signals across western North America and find that the horizontal component is coherent at very large spatial scales and is in general oriented perpendicular to the nearest coastline, indicating an oceanic origin. Additionally, horizontal and vertical annual signals are out of phase by approximately 2 months indicating different physical origins. Studies of GRACE and ocean bottom pressure data indicate an annual variation of non-steric, non-tidal ocean height with an average amplitude of 1 cm globally (e.g. Ponte et al., GRL, 2007). We use Some Programs for Ocean Tide Loading (SPOTL; Agnew, SIO Technical Report, 2012) to model predicted displacements due to these (non-tidal) ocean loads and find general agreement with observed horizontal GPS seasonal signals. In the future, this may lead to a more accurate way to predict and remove the seasonal component of GPS displacement time-series, leading to better discrimination of the true tectonic signal. Modeling this long wavelength signal also provides a potential opportunity to probe the structure of the Earth.