Airborne gravity and precise positioning for geologic applications

Bell, Robin E.; Childers, Vicki A.; Arko, Robert A.; Blankenship, Donald D.; Brozena, John M.

Airborne gravimetry has become an important geophysical tool primarily because of advancements in methodology and instrumentation made in the past decade. Airborne gravity is especially useful when measured in conjunction with other geophysical data, such as magnetics, radar, and laser altimetry. The aerogeophysical survey over the West Antarctic ice sheet described in this paper is one such interdisciplinary study. This paper outlines in detail the instrumentation, survey and data processing methodology employed to perform airborne gravimetry from the multiinstrumented Twin Otter aircraft. Precise positioning from carrier-phase Global Positioning System (GPS) observations are combined with measurements of acceleration made by the gravity meter in the aircraft to obtain the free-air gravity anomaly measurement at aircraft altitude. GPS data are processed using the Kinematic and Rapid Static (KARS) software program, and aircraft vertical acceleration and corrections for gravity data reduction are calculated from the GPS position solution. Accuracies for the free-air anomaly are determined from crossover analysis after significant editing (2.98 mGal rms) and from a repeat track (1.39 mGal rms). The aerogeophysical survey covered a 300,000 km2 region in West Antarctica over the course of five field seasons. The gravity data from the West Antarctic survey reveal the major geologic structures of the West Antarctic rift system, including the Whitmore Mountains, the Byrd Subglacial Basin, the Sinuous Ridge, the Ross Embayment, and Siple Dome. These measurements, in conjunction with magnetics and ice-penetrating radar, provide the information required to reveal the tectonic fabric and history of this important region.

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Also Published In

Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Marine Geology and Geophysics
Published Here
July 21, 2011