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GOCE gravity gradients versus global gravity field models



The GOCE mission, a part of ESA's Living Planet Programme, aims at improved gravity field modelling at high spatial resolution. On-board GOCE a gradiometer, in combination with a scientific on-board GPS receiver, measures the earth's gravity field with unprecedented accuracy. These measurements have been used to compute GOCE gravity field solutions and combined GOCE/GRACE solutions. The main difference between the solutions is how they incorporate the required a priori information, which consists either of existing gravity field models or Kaula's rule for the signal variances of the gravity field. We assessed four series of models by comparing the gravity gradients they predict with the measured GOCE gradients. The analysis of the gravity gradients fits may reveal differences between the different solutions that can be attributed to the solution strategy, assuming that the measurement errors are homogeneous. We compared the GOCE gradients with existing state-of-the-art global gravity field models and conclude that the gradient errors are indeed globally homogeneous, with the exception of the cross-track gradient especially south of Australia. Furthermore, we find that the use of existing global gravity field models as a priori information should be avoided because this may increase the gradient residuals in spatial and spectral domain. Finally, we may conclude that the GOCE and GRACE data are compatible and complementary.