Assessing performance of gravity models in the Arctic and the implications for polar oceanography

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Sam F. Thomas, Center for Polar Observation and Modelling, London, United Kingdom, David C McAdoo, NOAA College Park, College Park, MD, United States, Sinead L Farrell, University of Maryland College Park, College Park, MD, United States, John M Brozena, Naval Research Lab, Washington, DC, United States, Vicki A Childers, NOAA, National Geodetic Survey, Silver Spring, MD, United States, Marek K Ziebart, University College London, London, United Kingdom and Andrew Shepherd, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2, United Kingdom
The circulation of the Arctic Ocean is of great interest to both the oceanographic and cryospheric communities. Understanding both the steady state and variations of this circulation is essential to building our knowledge of Arctic climate.

With the advent of high inclination altimeter missions such as CryoSat and ICESat, it is now feasible to produce Mean Dynamic Topography (MDT) products for the region, which allow a comprehensive investigation of geostrophic currents. However, the accuracy of these products is largely limited by our knowledge of the marine geoid in the Arctic.

There are a number of publicly available gravity models commonly used to derive the geoid. These use different combinations of available data (satellite gravimetry, altimetry, laser ranging, and in-situ) and are calculated using different mathematical techniques. However, the effect of these differences on the real world performance of these models when used for oceanographic studies in the Arctic is not well known. Given the unique problems for gravimetry in the region (especially data gaps) and their potential impact on MDT products, it is especially important that the relative performance of these models be assessed

We consider the needs of the “end user” satellite oceanographer in the Arctic with respect to gravimetry, and the relationship between the precision of gravity data and the accuracy of a final MDT/current velocity product.

Using high-precision aerogravity data collected over 3 years of campaigns by NASA’s Operation IceBridge we inter-compare 10 of the leading gravity models and assess their performance in the Arctic. We also use historical data from campaigns flown by the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to demonstrate the impact of gravity errors on MDT products. We describe how gravity models for the region might be improved in the future, in an effort to maximize the level at which Arctic currents may be resolved.