Processing choices affect ocean nass estimates from GRACE

B. Uebbing*, J. Kusche, R. Rietbroek, F. W. Landerer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Accurate estimates of ocean mass change are necessary to infer steric sea level change from sea level changes measured with satellite altimeters. Published studies using the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission indicated a large range in trends (∼1–2 mm/year) with reported standard errors of 0.1–0.3 mm/year. Here we show that a large part of this discrepancy (up to 0.6 mm/year) can be explained by which model is used to account for the effect of glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA). The second largest contribution (0.3–0.4 mm/year) is related to the way how different studies have restored atmospheric and oceanic signals which have been removed during the GRACE gravity estimation process. Here two processing strategies, which previously resulted in differing ocean mass trends, are considered. The “direct” method uses the standard GRACE Stokes coefficients, while the “inverse” method applies a joint inversion of data from GRACE and altimetry. After accounting for differences in processing corrections, global mean ocean mass estimates from the direct, the mascon, and inverse approach agree with each other on global scales within less than 0.1 mm/year. Using the A et al. (2013; GIA model, we provide a reconciled monthly time series of global mean ocean mass, which suggests that ocean mass has increased by 1.43 mm/year over 2002.6–2014.5, with an amplified rate of 1.75 mm/year over 2002.6–2016.5 which covers almost the complete GRACE time span. However, we note that estimates as low as 1.05 mm/year cannot be ruled out when other published GIA corrections with lower mass-equivalent signals over Antarctica are used.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1029-1044
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of geophysical research: Oceans
Issue number2
Early online date13 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • inversion
  • ocean mass
  • ITC-CV
  • n/a OA procedure

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