On the accuracy of the bathymetry-generated gravitational field quantities for a depth-dependent seawater density distribution

Robert Tenzer, Pavel Novák, Vladislav Gladkikh

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


In geophysical studies investigating the lithosphere structure, the gravitational field generated by the ocean density contrast (i. e., bathymetry-generated gravitational field) represents a significant amount of the signal to be modelled and subsequently removed from the Earth's gravity field. The ocean density contrast is typically calculated as the difference between the mean density values of the Earth's crust and seawater. The approximation of the actual seawater density distribution by its mean value yields relative errors up to about 2% in computed quantities of the gravitational field. To reduce these errors, a more realistic model of the seawater density distribution is utilized based on the analysis of existing oceanographic data of salinity, temperature, and pressure (depth). We study the accuracy of the bathymetry-generated gravitational field quantities formulated for a depth-dependent model of the seawater density distribution. This density distribution approximates the seawater density variations due to an increasing pressure with depth, whereas smaller lateral density variations caused by salinity, temperature, and other oceanographic factors are not taken into consideration. The error analysis reveals that the approximation of the seawater density by the depth-dependent density model reduces the maximum errors to less than 0. 6%. The corresponding depth-averaged errors are below 0. 1%. The depth-dependent seawater density model is further facilitated in expressions for computing the bathymetry-generated gravitational field quantities by means of the spherical bathymetric (ocean bottom depth) functions. The numerical realization reveals large differences in the results obtained with and without consideration of the depth-dependent seawater density distribution. The maxima of absolute differences reach 201 m2/s2and 16. 5 mGal in computed values of the potential and attraction, respectively. The application of the depth-dependent seawater density model thus significantly improves the accuracy in the forward modelling of the bathymetric gravitational field quantities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-626
Number of pages18
JournalStudia Geophysica et Geodaetica
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • accuracy
  • bathymetry
  • forward modelling
  • gravity
  • ocean density contrast

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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