Satellite measures gravity's effect on climate change

Mar 09, 2011
An artist's impression of the Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite. After nearly two years in space, the European satellite GOCE has collected the raw data needed to map variations in Earth's gravity field, the European Space Agency has said.

After nearly two years in space, the European satellite GOCE has collected the raw data needed to map variations in Earth's gravity field, the European Space Agency has said.

The data will help scientists better understand the impact of on sea levels, ice sheets, and ocean circulation systems.

ESA launched the five metres long (16 feet), 1,050 kilogrammes (2,310 pounds) satellite in 2009 as part of its "Earth Explorer" programme.

From its relatively low orbital position 260 kilometres (160 miles) above the planet, GOCE can, with unprecedented accuracy, detect minute changes in Earth's .

Gravity's pull is not felt equally across the planet. Rather, Earth's slightly flattened shape and the irregular distribution of heavy rock lead to inconsistent gravitational forces across different regions.

Scientists at ESA will use the new data to generate a planetary "geoid," a hypothetical model of how gravity would shape a global ocean in the absence of tides and currents.

The geoid will allow for a far more accurate measure of ocean circulation, massive ice sheet in Greenland and Antarctica and changes in , all of which are influenced by global warming.

An improved knowledge of gravitational discrepancies will also contribute to a clearer view of Earth's interior, as well as the physics behind volcanoes and earthquakes.

GOCE (Gravity field and steady-state Explorer) is slated to continue its mission until the end of 2012.

Explore further: Climate change does not cause extreme winters, new study shows

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Launch of European gravity probe delayed

Mar 16, 2009

The launch of a pioneering European satellite designed to map Earth's gravity field was delayed due to technical problems and will take place Tuesday, Russia's Khrunichev Space Centre said.

European science satellite hit by glitch

Aug 23, 2010

A satellite designed to map Earth's gravitational field has been hit by a software glitch and is unable to send its science data back home, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Monday.

GOCE giving new insights into Earth's gravity (w/ Video)

Jun 29, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The first global gravity model based on GOCE satellite data has been presented at ESA's Living Planet Symposium. ESA launched GOCE in March 2009 to map Earth's gravity with unprecedented accuracy ...

Recommended for you

Image: Aral Sea from orbit

Mar 27, 2015

This multitemporal Sentinel-1A radar image shows the Aral Sea, located on the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia.

IceBridge overflies Norwegian camp on drifting sea ice

Mar 27, 2015

Studying sea ice in the Fram Strait, a passage between Greenland and Svalbard that is the main gateway for Arctic sea ice into the open ocean, is not easy. In this area, not only does ice flow southward quickly ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.