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TEMPORAL GRAVITY VARIATIONS

The body of the earth and its gravity field are subject to temporal
variations of secular, periodic, and abrupt nature, which can occur globally, regionally,
and locally. These variations also influence the orientation of the earth. Modern geodetic
measurement and evaluation techniques are used to detect these variations to a high
level of accuracy. If time-independent results are required, geodetic observations must
be corrected for temporal variations. By determining temporal variations, the science of
geodesy contributes to the investigation of the kinematic and dynamic properties of the
terrestrial body.
Gravity changes with time may be divided into effects due to: Gravity changes
with time may be divided into effects due to: (A) A time dependent Gravitational
Constant and variations of the Earth's Rotation. (B)Tidal accelerations (C) Variations
caused by terrestrial mass displacements.

A.

A time dependent Gravitational Constant and


variations of the Earth's Rotation.

Newton's law of universal gravitation states that an attractive force F is set


up between any two point masses, varying proportional with the product of
m
m2
the masses ( 1 and
) and inversely proportional with the distance l
between

the

masses:

The gravitational constant is the proportionality constant used in Newtons


Law of Universal Gravitation, and is commonly denoted by G.
G = 6.6738410-11 N m2 kg-2
The earth's rotational vector is subject to secular, periodic, and irregular
variations, leading to changes of the centrifugal acceleration z. In a
spherical approximation, the radial component of z enters into gravity. By
multiplying
with
( = geocentric latitude), we obtain:
Differentiation yields the effect of changes in latitude (polar motion) and
angular velocity (length of day) on gravity:

B. Tidal accelerations and Tidal Potential

Tidal acceleration is caused by the superposition of lunisolar gravitation (and


to a far lesser extent planetary gravitation) and orbital accelerations due to
the motion of the earth around the barycenter of the respective two-body
system (earth-moon, earth-sun etc.).
For a rigid earth, the tidal acceleration at a given point can be determined
from Newton's law of gravitation and the ephemerides (coordinates) of the
celestial bodies (moon, sun, planets). The computations are carried out
separately for the individual two-body systems (earth-moon, earth-sun etc.),
and the results are subsequently added, with the celestial bodies regarded as
point masses.

Geometry of the Earth-Moon system


The configuration of the Earth-Moon system used for deriving the
properties of the tidal equilibrium is displayed in Figure 1. It follows from the
figure that
r+q=R

Figure 1: Illustration of the Earth-Moon system with the Earth to the left and the Moon
to the right (figure greatly out of scale). O, P and L are the centre of the Earth, an
arbitrary point on Earths surface and the centers of the Moon, respectively. r is the
Earth's radius vector (from point O to P), R is the position vector from the centre of the
Earth to Moon's centre (from O to L), and q is the position vector from an arbitrary point
P on Earth's surface to L. The line between O and L is sometimes called the center line

Centre of mass of the Earth-Moon system


The center of mass of the Earth-Moon system is located along the
center line OP at a distance xR (0 < x < 1) from point O (Fig. 1). We then get that

Here

ML

and

MT

are the mass of Moon and Earth, respectively, see Table

1. With mean values of r and R (Table 2), we get that


x

0.73 r

implying that the center of mass of the Earth-Moon system is located about one
quarter of Earth's radius from the surface of the Earth.

Table 1. Mass of Earth, Moon and Sun

Table 2. The mean distance between Earth and


Moon, and Earth and Sun

Gravitational forces and accelerations in the Earth and Moon


system
The gravitational force at the Earth's center because of the presence of
F
the Moon, TL , is

where R/R is the unit vector along the center line from Earth to Moon.
According to Newton's second law, this force leads to acceleration at the
center of Earth

Similarly, the gravitational acceleration at point P caused by the Moon is

At point P, there is also a gravitational acceleration g towards the center of the


Earth caused by Earth's mass:
By inserting the numerical values of G (6.6738410-11 N m2 kg-2 ) and
6
MT(5.974x1024kg) and r( 6.37 x 10 m

one obtains

g=9.8 m/ s2

expected.

Furthermore, the equation above gives the relationship

Tidal Acceleration
We consider the geocentric coordinate system to be moving in space with
the earth but not rotating with it (revolution without rotation). All points on the
earth experience the same orbital acceleration in the geocentric coordinate
system (see Fig. 2 for the earth-moon system). In order to obtain equilibrium,

orbital acceleration and gravitation of the celestial bodies have to cancel in the
earth's center of gravity. Tidal acceleration occurs at all other points of the earth.
The acceleration is defined as the difference between the gravitation b, which
bo
depends on the position of the point, and the constant part
, referring to the
earth's center:
bt =bb o
If we apply the law of gravitation to (

bt =bb o

), we obtain for the moon

(m) the formula:

Here,

M m=

mass of the moon, and

lm

and

rm

= distance

to the moon as reckoned from the calculation point P and the earth's center of
bt
lm
rm
gravity respectively. We have
= 0 for
=
. Corresponding
relations hold for the earth-sun and earth-planet systems.

Tidal Potential
Tides are a measure of changes in gravity, caused by the attraction of the
moon and sun. Tidal potential is the gravitational potential that varies with the
position of the Moon and Sun relative to the Earth .
Components of the tidal potential
Deformation of the solid earth due to gravitational potential (solid
earth tide)
Movement of ocean water due to changing potential (ocean tides)
Deformation of the solid earth due to the changing load of ocean
tides (ocean tidal loading).

Laplace's tidal equations


When tidal forcing is introduced to the (quasi)linearized version of the
shallow water equations, the obtained equations are known as Laplace's tidal
equations (LTE). Tidal flow is then described as the flow of a barotropic fluid,
forced by the tidal pull from the Moon and the Sun. The phrase shallow water
equations" reacts that the wavelength of the resulting motion is large compared

to the thickness of the fluid. The horizontal components of the momentum


equation and the continuity equation can then be expressed as:

(a
(b
In the above equations,t is the (prescribed) tidal forcing and is the
(c
resulting surface elevation, h is the ocean depth.
The horizontal momentum equations are linear, but inclusion of a friction
term will typically turn the equations non-linear. Likewise, the divergence terms in
the continuity equation are nonlinear because of the product uh and vh. Solution
of LTE requires discretization and subsequent numerical solution.

C.

Variations caused
displacements.

by

terrestrial

mass

The terrestrial gravity field is affected by a number of variations with time


due to mass redistributions in the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and the solid
earth. These processes take place at different time scales and are of global,
regional, and local character.
Long-term global effects include postglacial rebound, melting of the ice
caps and glaciers, as well as sea level changes induced by atmospheric
warming; slow motions of the earth's core and mantle convection also contribute.
Subsidence in sedimentary basins and tectonic uplift are examples of regional
effects. Groundwater variations are primarily of seasonal character, while
volcanic and earthquake activities are short-term processes of more local extent.
The magnitude of the resulting gravity variations depends on the amount
of mass shifts and is related to them by the law of gravitation. Research and
modeling of these variations is still in the beginning stages. Large-scale
variations have been found from satellite-derived gravity field models, but smallscale effects can be detected only by terrestrial gravity measurements. Simple
models have been developed for the relation between atmospheric and
hydrological mass shifts and gravity changes, Generally, gravity changes
produced by mass redistributions do not exceed the order of

109

8
to 10 g.