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Preprints Archive: Abstract of IC2010004 (2010)

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Analysis of time variable gravity data over Africa

by Valentina R. Barletta and Abdelkarim Aoudia

Document info: Pages 28, Figures 44.

Africa, in principle, is a unique laboratory where to address the individual contribution of the different facets of the Earth system as well as their interactions. However, it shows both a rich hydrology that exhibits complex characteristics of rivers and wide basins of different sizes in addition to the hydrology of lakes, and other wetlands and storage reservoirs and groundwater aquifers, and continuous and discontinuous changes in the physical properties of the Earth interior. Stretching and heating processes are accompanied by punctuated episodes of faulting and/or volcanism, and longer-term changes in surface elevation that disrupt river drainage and climate. Space gravity missions GRACE, flying since 2002, was expressly designed to detect the time-dependent gravity field in order to study the hydrological cycle of the Earth, but has also evidenced Solid Earth phenomena such as Post Glacial Rebound (PGR) and the signature of a giant earthquake such as the 2004 Sumatra. Hence the idea to analyze time variable gravity data over Africa in order to retrieve fingerprints of geophysical phenomena. The exploitation of the GRACE data for geophysics, however, is not straightforward. Indeed, the quality of the signal is not uniform worldwide and gravity is always the superposition of contributions from solid Earth as well as climate-related phenomena, that cannot be easily distinguished, at a first glance, both in time and space. In the present study we show that mass changes cannot be classified simply as trends or periodic signals. We follow an alternative way to separate complementary components, periodic and non-periodic signals, without loosing information. We show that the a priori periodic and linear trend fitting function is not everywhere appropriate and in some cases it is even so poor to result in misinterpreting the data. Variations in long term behavior and periodicities higher than the usual annual (and semi-annual) indeed occur, related to geophysical phenomena, climate and even to human activities. The time analysis approach proposed in this work is used to discriminate signals from different possible geographical sources mostly in the low latitude regions, where hydrology is strongest, as for example Africa. By applying our approach to hydrological models we can show similarities and differences with GRACE data. The similarities lie almost all in the geographical signatures of the periodic component even if there are differences in amplitudes and phase. While differences in the non-periodic component can be explained with the presence of other phenomena, the differences in the periodic component can be explained with missing groundwater or other defects in the hydrological models. In this way we tested the adequacy of some hydrological models commonly combined with gravity data to retrieve solid Earth geophysical signatures. Thus we show that analisys of time variable gravity data over Africa strongly requires a correct and reliable hydrological model.

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