The precise knowledge of the Earth’s gravity field is fundamental to provide information about the Earth’s shape, its interior and fluid envelope. It is essential for many Earth system research areas, such as quantifying mass distribution and mass transport, monitoring oceanic transport, continental hydrology, ice mass balance and sea level, and dynamics of mantle and crust. With these contributions, global gravity field models are indispensable for an improved understanding of the Earth system and the interactions between its sub-components. Thus, these products are not only relevant for geodesy but also for other geosciences, such as geophysics, glaciology, hydrology, oceanography, and climatology.
Some applications and research fields that strongly depend on the precise knowledge of the Earth’s gravity field are:
- deriving physical heights that are crucial for many engineering, surveying and mapping operations;
- enabling the definition and realization of an International Height Reference System;
- monitoring mass distributions and its changes as indicators for climate change (e.g., ice melting) and for understanding of the global hydrological cycle (e.g., for water management);
- exploring minerals or fossil fuels, seeking out energy resources also from offshore locations and in deeper water;
- enabling precise orbit determination and predicting orbits of satellites and other space vehicles;
- exploring the interior structure and geological evolution of our planet.