Accounting for time- and space-varying changes in the gravity field to improve the network adjustment of relative-gravity data

Jeffrey R. Kennedy, Ty P.A. Ferrè

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The relative gravimeter is the primary terrestrial instrument formeasuring spatially and temporally varying gravitational fields. The background noise of the instrument-that is, non-linear drift and random tares-typically requires some form of least-squares network adjustment to integrate data collected during a campaign that may take several days to weeks. Here, we present an approach to remove the change in the observed relative-gravity differences caused by hydrologic or other transient processes during a single campaign, so that the adjusted gravity values can be referenced to a single epoch. The conceptual approach is an example of coupled hydrogeophysical inversion, by which a hydrologic model is used to inform and constrain the geophysical forward model. The hydrologic model simulates the spatial variation of the rate of change of gravity as either a linear function of distance from an infiltration source, or using a 3-D numerical groundwater model. The linear function can be included in and solved for as part of the network adjustment. Alternatively, the groundwater model is used to predict the change of gravity at each station through time, from which the accumulated gravity change is calculated and removed from the data prior to the network adjustment. Data from a field experiment conducted at an artificial-recharge facility are used to verify our approach. Maximum gravity change due to hydrology (observed using a superconducting gravimeter) during the relative-gravity field campaigns was up to 2.6 μGal d-1, each campaign was between 4 and 6 d and one month elapsed between campaigns. The maximum absolute difference in the estimated gravity change between two campaigns, two months apart, using the standard network adjustment method and the new approach, was 5.5 μGal. The maximum gravity change between the same two campaigns was 148 μGal, and spatial variation in gravity change revealed zones of preferential infiltration and areas of relatively high groundwater storage. The accommodation for spatially varying gravity change would be most important for long-duration campaigns, campaigns with very rapid changes in gravity and (or) campaigns where especially precise observed relative-gravity differences are used in the network adjustment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)892-906
Number of pages15
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Hydrogeophysics
  • Hydrology
  • Time variable gravity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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