Maps, Data, and Models

Monthly Changes in Gravity Affect Sea Level

Monthly changes in gravity affect sea level

An animation showing “sea level fingerprints,” or patterns of rising and falling sea levels across the globe in response to changes in Earth’s gravitational and rotational fields. Major changes in water mass can cause localized bumps and dips in gravity, sometimes with counterintuitive effects. Melting glaciers, for example, actually cause nearby sea level to drop; as they lose mass, their gravitational pull slackens, and sea water migrates away. In this animation, computed from data gathered by the twin GRACE satellites since 2002, sea level is dropping around rapidly melting Greenland (orange, yellow). But near coastlines at a sufficient distance, the added water causes sea levels to rise (blue). The computational method is described in Adhikari et al. (2016, Geoscientific Model Development). And, these solutions are presented in Adhikari and Ivins (2016, Science Advances).

Credit: NASA-JPL/Caltech