Error Assessment of GRACE and GRACE Follow-On Mass Change

Jianli Chen, Byron Tapley, Mark E. Tamisiea, Himanshu Save, Clark Wilson, Srinivas Bettadpur, Ki Weon Seo

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


We carry out a comprehensive error assessment of Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) and GRACE Follow-On (GFO) Release-6 (RL06) solutions from the Center for Space Research (CSR) at the University of Texas at Austin, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and Geoforschungszentrum (GFZ). The study covers the period April 2002 to August 2020 and uses two different methods, one based upon open ocean residuals (OOR) and the other a Three-Cornered Hat (TCH) calculation. General results from the two methods are similar. With 300 km Gaussian smoothing OOR RMS errors for CSR, JPL, and GFZ solutions are ∼2.01, 3.19, and 3.67 cm, respectively. With additional decorrelation filtering OOR RMS values are reduced to ∼1.24, 1.53, and 1.69 cm, respectively. TCH analysis also shows that CSR has the lowest noise levels with similar RMS values, and additional decorrelation filtering reduces error levels. TCH may underestimate errors if there are common errors among geophysical background models. Errors in GFO's first two years (25 solutions for 2018.06 to 2020.08) are comparable to those of GRACE when zonal degree 2 and 3 coefficients are replaced by Satellite Laser Ranging estimates. The OOR method reveals mismodeled intra-seasonal dynamic ocean signals associated with the Argentine Gyre during de-aliasing, while the TCH method shows differences between ocean tide models near Australia and Antarctica. Both OOR and TCH RMS analysis offer a means to assess the noise level of GRACE/GFO estimated mass change. The actual uncertainty of GRACE/GFO estimate averaged (or totaled) over a given region is also affected by other error sources.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021JB022124
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • GFO
  • gravity
  • mass change
  • open ocean residual
  • Three-Cornered Hat
  • uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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