GOCE will advance many fields of science

GOCE scientific objectives

GOCE was in orbit around Earth for just over 4.5 years, much longer than its designed life of 20 months. During that time, it mapped Earth's gravity field with unprecedented accuracy and spatial resolution.

 The data provided by the GOCE mission are leading to:

  • A better understanding of the physics of the Earth's interior to gain new insights into the geodynamics associated with the lithosphere, mantle composition and rheology, uplift and subduction processes.
  • A better understanding of the ocean currents and heat transport.
  • A global height-reference system, to serve as a reference surface to study topographic processes and sea-level change.
  • Better estimates of the thickness of polar ice-sheets and their movement.

Mission goals

GOCE data have specific accuracy requirements for each application area. Requirements for the accuracy of geoid height and the gravity field are summarised in the table below:

Application Accuracy,
Geoid [cm]
Gravity [mGal]
Spatial Resolution
(half wavelength) [km]
Solid Earth
Lithosphere and upper-mantle density structure 1-2 100
Continental lithosphere:
• sedimentary basins 1-2 50-100
• rifts 1-2 20-100
• tectonic motions 1-2 100-500
• Seismic hazards 1 100
Ocean lithosphere and interaction with asthenosphere 0.5-1 100-200





Basin scale ~0.1 1000
Ice sheets
Rock basement 1-5 50-100
Ice vertical movements 2 100-1000
Levelling by GPS 1 100-1000
Unification of worldwide height systems 1 100-20 000
Inertial Navigation System ~1-5 100-1000
Orbits ~1-3 100-1000

Many of the applications above are relevant for understanding sea-level change.

Last update: 12 November 2013

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