Science and User Needs for Observing Global Mass Transport to Understand Global Change and to Benefit Society

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Roland Pail - , Technical University of Munich (Author)
  • Rory Bingham - , University of Bristol (Author)
  • Carla Braitenberg - , University of Trieste (Author)
  • Henryk Dobslaw - , Helmholtz Centre Potsdam - German Research Centre for Geosciences (Author)
  • Annette Eicker - , University of Bonn (Author)
  • Andreas Güntner - , Helmholtz Centre Potsdam - German Research Centre for Geosciences (Author)
  • Martin Horwath - , Chair of Geodetic Earth System Research (Author)
  • Eric Ivins - , Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology (Author)
  • Laurent Longuevergne - , Université de Rennes 1 (Author)
  • Isabelle Panet - , Ecole Nationale des Sciences Géographiques (Author)
  • Bert Wouters - , University of Colorado Boulder (Author)
  • IUGG Expert Panel - (Author)


Satellite gravimetry is a unique measurement technique for observing mass transport processes in the Earth system on a global scale, providing essential indicators of both subtle and dramatic global change. Although past and current satellite gravity missions have achieved spectacular science results, due to their limited spatial and temporal resolution as well as limited length of the available time series numerous important questions are still unresolved. Therefore, it is important to move from current demonstration capabilities to sustained observation of the Earth’s gravity field. In an international initiative performed under the umbrella of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, consensus on the science and user needs for a future satellite gravity observing system has been derived by an international panel of scientists representing the main fields of application, i.e., continental hydrology, cryosphere, ocean, atmosphere and solid Earth. In this paper the main results and findings of this initiative are summarized. The required target performance in terms of equivalent water height has been identified as 5 cm for monthly fields and 0.5 cm/year for long-term trends at a spatial resolution of 150 km. The benefits to meet the main scientific and societal objectives are investigated, and the added value is demonstrated for selected case studies covering the main fields of application. The resulting consolidated view on the required performance of a future sustained satellite gravity observing system represents a solid basis for the definition of technological and mission requirements, and is a prerequisite for mission design studies of future mission concepts and constellations.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)743-772
Journal Surveys in geophysics : an international review journal of geophysics and planetary sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015

External IDs

Scopus 84947048478
ORCID /0000-0001-5797-244X/work/142246547


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