Abstract

The Earth's asthenosphere and lower continental crust can regionally have viscosities that are one to several orders of magnitude smaller than typical mantle viscosities. As a consequence, such shallow low-viscosity layers could induce high-harmonic (spherical harmonics 50-200) gravity and geoid anomalies due to remaining isostasy deviations following Late-Pleistocene glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA). Such high-harmonic geoid and gravity signatures would depend also on the detailed ice and meltwater loading distribution and history. ESA's GOCE satellite mission, scheduled for launch summer 2008, is designed to map the quasi-static geoid with centimeter accuracy and gravity anomalies with milligal accuracy at a resolution of 100 kilometers or better. This might offer the possibility of detecting gravity and geoid effects of low-viscosity shallow earth layers and differences of the effects of various Pleistocene ice decay scenarios. For example, our predictions show that for a typical low-viscosity crustal zone GOCE should be able to discern differences between ice-load histories down to length scales of about 150 km. One of the major challenges in interpreting such high-harmonic, regional-scale, geoid signatures in GOCE solutions will be to discriminate GIA-signatures from various other solid-earth contributions. It might be of help here that the high-harmonic geoid and gravity signatures form quite characteristic 2-D patterns, depending on both ice load and low-viscosity zone model patterns.

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