Gravity gradiometry resurfaces

Bell, Robin E.; Anderson, Roger N.; Pratson, Lincoln F.

Twelve years ago, reading a passage from the submarine novel The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy was as dose as any exploration geophysicist got to gravity gradiometry. This early technique in Gulf Coast exploration, which faded from use with the development of modern gravity instrumentation in the 1930s, had been relegated to brief historical sections of introductory texts. In the 1970s, driven by both navigation and missile launching requirements, the U.S. Navy spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing a system to measure gravity gradients; this system was somewhat more complex than the fictional one Clancy installed on the Red October. The end of the Cold War triggered the introduction of classified military technology to exploration geophysics and other fields. Three years ago the U.S. Navy began to explore civilian applications for submarine gravity gradient technology. This article describes gravity gradients, the developing uses of gravity gradiometry in exploration, and future possibilities for the technique.


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Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Marine Geology and Geophysics
Published Here
February 13, 2012