A geopotential model from satellite tracking, altimeter, and surface gravity data: GEM‐T3 Journal Article uri icon



  • An improved model of Earth's gravitational field, GEM‐T3, has been developed from a combination of satellite tracking, satellite altimeter, and surface gravimetric data. GEM‐T3 provides a significant improvement in the modeling of the gravity field at half wavelengths of 400 km and longer. This model, complete to degree and order 50, yields more accurate satellite orbits and an improved geoid representation than previous Goddard Earth Models. GEM‐T3 uses altimeter data from GEOS 3 (1975–1976), Seasat (1978) and Geosat (1986–1987). Tracking information used in the solution includes more than 1300 arcs of data encompassing 31 different satellites. The recovery of the long‐wavelength components of the solution relies mostly on highly precise satellite laser ranging (SLR) data, but also includes TRANET Doppier, optical, and satellite‐to‐satellite tracking acquired between the ATS 6 and GEOS 3 satellites. The main advances over GEM‐T2 (beyond the inclusion of altimeter and surface gravity information which is essential for the resolution of the shorter wavelength geoid) are some improved tracking data analysis approaches and additional SLR data. Although the use of altimeter data has greatly enhanced the modeling of the ocean geoid between 65°N and 60°S latitudes in GEM‐T3, the lack of accurate detailed surface gravimetry leaves poor geoid resolution over many continental regions of great tectonic interest (e.g., Himalayas, Andes). Estimates of polar motion, tracking station coordinates, and long‐wavelength ocean tidal terms were also made (accounting for 6330 parameters). GEM‐T3 has undergone error calibration using a technique based on subset solutions to produce reliable error estimates. The calibration is based on the condition that the expected mean square deviation of a subset gravity solution from the full set values is predicted by the solutions' error covariances. Data weights are iteratively adjusted until this condition for the error calibration is satisfied. In addition, gravity field tests were performed on strong satellite data sets withheld from the solution (thereby ensuring their independence). In these tests, the performance of the subset models on the withheld observations is compared to error projections based on their calibrated error covariances. These results demonstrate that orbit accuracy projections are reliable for new satellites which were not included in GEM‐T3.

publication date

  • February 10, 1994

has restriction

  • closed

Date in CU Experts

  • April 18, 2014 4:10 AM

Full Author List

  • Lerch FJ; Nerem RS; Putney BH; Felsentreger TL; Sanchez BV; Marshall JA; Klosko SM; Patel GB; Williamson RG; Chinn DS

author count

  • 20

Other Profiles

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0148-0227

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 2815

end page

  • 2839


  • 99


  • B2