The gravity field of the planet Earth can be measured and modeled through a variety of means. The discipline of Physical Geodesy combines knowledge that comes under the mathematical discipline of Potential Theory and the scientific discipline of Geophysics.

Elements of potential theory are applied to the diverse data of gravimetric geodesy (e.g., absolute gravity measurements, torsion balance observations, deflections of the vertical observations, satellite perturbation observations, satellite altimetry observations, gravity gradient observations, etc.) in attempts to solve, uniquely, boundary value problems associated with the shape of the Earth. These are not trivial problems and the theory involved enjoys high degrees of beauty, sophistication and abstraction. It is safe to say that to solve the problems of physical geodesy, one needs ample instruction in mathematics and theoretical mechanics.


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Textbooks on the subject

The classic text used by English speaking students of Gravimetry and Physical Geodesy is the one by Heiskanen and Moritz (see bibliography below) followed by the advanced text authored solely by Moritz. Another comprehensive work in the field is the one by Pick, Picha & Vysocil. The chapter contents contained in these works gives an orderly synopsis of the associated material:

Contents of Heiskanen & Moritz' Physical Geodesy
  1. Fundamentals of Potential Theory
  2. The Gravity Field of the Earth
  3. Gravimetric Methods
  4. Heights Above Sea Level
  5. Astrogeodetic Methods
  6. Gravity Field Outside of the Earth
  7. Statistical Methods in Physical Geodesy
  8. Modern Methods for Determining the Figure of the Earth
  9. Celestial Methods
Contents of Pick et al., Theory of the Earth's Gravity Field
  1. Introduction
  2. Newton's Theory of Potential
  3. Potential of Some Simple Formations, Approximate in Shape to the Figure of the Earth
  4. Equipotential Surfaces, Reductions
  5. Absolute Gravity Measurements
  6. Relative Measurements of the Acceleration of Gravity
  7. Measurements of the Second Derivatives of the Gravity Potential
  8. Some Comments of the Anomalous Gravity Field
  9. Gravimetry and the Internal Structure of teh Earth
  10. The Geoid
  11. Determination of the Figure of the Earth Without Considering Hypotheses About its Internal Composition
  12. Time Variations of the Gravity Field
  13. Observations of Tides of the Earth's Crust
  14. Fundamental Mathematical Principles of Gravimetric Interpreatation
  15. Substitution of the Earth's Bocy by a Reference Surface
  16. Astronomical and Astrogeodetic Levelling

The chapter on Celestial Methods in Heiskanen & Moritz is more aptly covered by the subdiscipline of Satellite Geodesy. Obviously, Satellite Geodesy shares some overlap with the study of Planetary Dynamics. The classic Satellite Geodesy text in English is the one by Kaula. The contents of Kaula's text is given below:

Contents of Kaula's Theory of Satellite Geodesy

Now again in print from Dover Publications

  1. The Earth's Gravitational Field
  2. Matrices and Orbital Geometry
  3. Satellite Orbit Dynamics
  4. Geometry of Satellite Observations
  5. Statistical Implications
  6. Data Analysis

Other texts on Satellite Geodesy are found in other languages. Most notably are the recent texts by M. Schneider; Satellitengeodäsie and Volume IV of Schneider's series of Himmelsmechanik. Further information can be found on the planetary dynamics page.

Technical Reports

• Classic mathematical texts helpful in navigating through the latest advances in Physical Geodesy

Other Sites on the Internet:

• On-Line Information regarding various aspects of Physical Geodesy

• On-Line reports in the areas of Gravimetric and Physical Geodesy at TU Delft

1997 Reports are available in html (web browser) format.

1998 Reports are available in PDF (Adobe Acrobat) and in PostScript formats.

• On-Line Information from Various University Geodetic Science Departments

• On-Line Information from Various Agencies

Last Modified: April 1, 2002

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