Three approaches are used to reduce the error in the satellite-derived marine gravity anomalies. First, we have retracked the raw waveforms from the ERS-1 and Geosat/GM missions resulting in improvements in range precision of 40% and 27%, respectively. Second, we have used the recently published EGM2008 global gravity model as a reference field to provide a seamless gravity transition from land to ocean. Third, we have used a biharmonic spline interpolation method to construct residual vertical deflection grids. Comparisons between shipboard gravity and the global gravity grid show errors ranging from 2.0 mGal in the Gulf of Mexico to 4.0 mGal in areas with rugged seafloor topography. The largest errors of up to 20 mGal occur on the crests of narrow large seamounts. The global spreading ridges are well resolved and show variations in ridge axis morphology and segmentation with spreading rate. For rates less than about 60 mm/a the typical ridge segment is 50–80 km long while it increases dramatically at higher rates (100–1000 km). This transition spreading rate of 60 mm/a also marks the transition from axial valley to axial high. We speculate that a single mechanism controls both transitions; candidates include both lithospheric and asthenospheric processes.