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GRACE Gravity Survey Measures the Masses of Climate Changes

GRACE Gravity Survey Measures the Masses of Climate Changes

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 16 April 2019



The Satellite Twins GRACE
The satellite twins GRACE with the Earth's gravitational field, AIRBUS/GFZ.
The twin satellites GRACE revealing the Earth's gravitational field.


Gravity is our Friend. Until it Isn't

What Earth's Gravity Reveals about Climate Change,
GFZ GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Helmholtz Centre, April 16, 2019.


“Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment”

March 17, 2002

Surprise Duration
“...the mission lasted a good 15 years - more than three times as long as expected.”

“...recorded the Earth's gravitational field and its changes over time in more than 160 months.”

Ice Sheets and Glaciers

“...produced the first direct measurement of ice-mass loss from ice sheets and glaciers ever.”

Man-Made Ice Loss
“...between April 2002 and June 2017 Greenland lost about 260 billion tons of ice per year, Antarctica about 140 billion tons.”

“...60 percent of the total mass-loss is due to enhanced melt production in response to Arctic warming trends, while 40 percent is due to an increase of ice flow into the ocean.”

“...provide evidence of the direct effects of global climate phenomena such as "El Niño" on ice sheets and glaciers worldwide.”

Terrestrial water storage

“...observation of large-scale changes in the global hydrological cycle has been an important early confirmation of the changes predicted by climate models through the twenty-first century.”

Groundwater Depletion
“...enabled the first-ever estimates of groundwater storage changes from space. They confirm excessive rates of groundwater depletion from individual aquifers around the world.”

Sea-level change and ocean dynamics

Drastic Sea Rise Coming

10mm or .4 inch per year

“...between 1993 and 2017, the sea-level rose by an average of 3.1 millimetres per year.”

“Within this century, sea-level rise could accelerate to 10 millimetres per year - a rate unprecedented during the past 5000 years and a profound and direct consequence of a warming climate.”

How is it Rising?
Inflows or thermal expansion
“Resolving this composition is important for sea-level projections.”

“GRACE has shown that 2.5 millimetres of the average annual sea-level rise of 3.8 millimetres between 2005 and 2017 is caused by the inflow of water or other mass and 1.1 millimetres by the thermal expansion of water.”*

*(2.5+1.1= 3.6, not the average rise cited at 3.8, nor the 3.1 quoted in the first paragraph, above.)

Climate Service Applications

“...to improve the United States Drought Monitor. ”

“…test runs with historical flood data took place, showing that the wetness indicators for large river basins determined by GRACE can improve forecasts...”

“...results also show that GRACE data can be used to more accurately predict the risk of seasonal wildfires.”

More Gravity Observations Coming
Decades of Fun Ahead

“In May 2018, the follow-up mission GRACE Follow-on (GRACE-FO) was launched.”

“...a more than two decades long recording of the mass changes in the system Earth is within reach."






Related Research

Ice sheets and glaciers

Ice Research: Half of Euro Glaciers Gone by 2050, the remainder by 2100


Glacier Research Links
Extensive End of Cold links


More Information on Topics Touched by GRACE


Terrestrial water storage

Drought Never Ended? Groundwater loss Sinking San Joaquin Valley


Climate Change News: Groundwater Changing in the American West



Sea-level change and ocean dynamics 

Sea Level

Climate Change News: Higher Faster, Sea level rise accelerating


Extreme Pacific sea level events to double in future


Ars Technica Reviews Recent Sea Ice, Sea Level Research


Ocean Dynamics

Speed of Ocean Circulation Crucial to Climate


Where Has All the Heat Gone? Into Changing the Circulation of the Deep Blue Sea...




 Eco Crashing News

April 2019 News of Man & Nature








Nature News


Climate Destruction News



Bee News

Bear News

Spider Forum

Bird News

Small Mammals

Frogs and Reptiles

Butterfly News


Health and Fitness

Mountain Safety

Mosquito News

Female Trail

High Sierra History


Astro-Phys, Space, & Science News

High Sierra Geology News

Fish, Oceans, & Water News






GRACE, gravity, spacecraft, measures, mass, ice, snow, glaciers, water, sea level


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