Publications

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2017
Zhang, SJ, Sandwell DT.  2017.  Retracking of SARAL/AltiKa Radar Altimetry Waveforms for Optimal Gravity Field Recovery. Marine Geodesy. 40:40-56.   10.1080/01490419.2016.1265032   AbstractWebsite

The accuracy of the marine gravity field derived from satellite altimetry depends on dense track spacing as well as high range precision. Here, we investigate the range precision that can be achieved using a new shorter wavelength Ka-band altimeter AltiKa aboard the SARAL spacecraft. We agree with a previous study that found that the range precision given in the SARAL/AltiKa Geophysical Data Records is more precise than that of Ku-band altimeter by a factor of two. Moreover, we show that two-pass retracking can further improve the range precision by a factor of 1.7 with respect to the 40 Hz-retracked data (item of range_40 hz) provided in the Geophysical Data Records. The important conclusion is that a dedicated Ka-band altimeter-mapping mission could substantially improve the global accuracy of the marine gravity field with complete coverage and a track spacing of <6 km achievable in similar to 1.3 years. This would reveal thousands of uncharted seamounts on the ocean floor as well as important tectonic features such as microplates and abyssal hill fabric.

2000
Lyons, SN, Sandwell DT, Smith WHF.  2000.  Three-dimensional estimation of elastic thickness under the Louisville Ridge. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 105:13239-13252.   10.1029/2000jb900065   AbstractWebsite

A three-dimensional approach to estimating elastic thickness is presented which uses dense satellite altimetry and sparse ship bathymetry. This technique is applied to the Louisville Ridge system to study the tectonic history of the region. The inversion is performed as both a first-order approximation and a nonlinear relationship between gravity and topography based on Parker's [1973] equation. While the higher-order effect on the gravity anomaly is nearly zero for most of the region, the magnitude is significant over the summits of the ridge. Nevertheless, the inclusion of the nonlinear terms has only a minor influence on the elastic thickness estimate within each region, lowering the value by similar to 1-2 km compared with the linear result. The incorrect assumption of two dimensionality for circular features exhibits a marked effect on the gravitational anomaly, resulting in false sidelobe structure of nearly 20 mGal for large seamounts. Our elastic thickness estimates are compared with the contradictory values obtained in previous studies by Cazenave and Dominh [1984] and Watts et al. [1988]. We find an increasing elastic thickness along the chain from southeast to northwest, with a discontinuity along the Wishbone scarp. The jump in elastic thickness values northwest of the scarp appears to be an indication of an age discontinuity caused by an extinct spreading center north of the ridge.

1997
Smith, WHF, Sandwell DT.  1997.  Global sea floor topography from satellite altimetry and ship depth soundings. Science. 277:1956-1962.   10.1126/science.277.5334.1956   AbstractWebsite

A digital bathymetric map of the oceans with a horizontal resolution of 1 to 12 kilometers was derived by combining available depth soundings with high-resolution marine gravity information from the Geosat and ERS-1 spacecraft. Previous global bathymetric maps lacked features such as the 1600-kilometer-long Foundation Seamounts chain in the South Pacific. This map shows relations among the distributions of depth, sea floor area, and sea floor age that do not fit the predictions of deterministic models of subsidence due to lithosphere cooling but may be explained by a stochastic model in which randomly distributed reheating events warm the lithosphere and raise the ocean floor.

1995
Levitt, DA, Sandwell DT.  1995.  Lithospheric Bending at Subduction Zones Based on Depth Soundings and Satellite Gravity. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 100:379-400.   10.1029/94jb02468   AbstractWebsite

A global study of trench flexure was performed by simultaneously modeling 117 bathymetric profiles (original depth soundings) and satellite-derived gravity profiles. A thin, elastic plate flexure model was fit to each bathymetry/gravity profile by minimization of the L(1) norm. The six model parameters were regional depth, regional gravity, trench axis location, flexural wavelength, flexural amplitude, and lithospheric density. A regional tilt parameter was not required after correcting for age-related trend using a new high-resolution age map. Estimates of the density parameter confirm that most outer rises are uncompensated. We find that flexural wavelength is not an accurate estimate of plate thickness because of the high curvatures observed at a majority of trenches. As in previous studies, we find that the gravity data favor a longer-wavelength flexure than the bathymetry data. A joint topography-gravity modeling scheme and fit criteria are used to limit acceptable parameter values to models for which topography and gravity yield consistent results. Even after the elastic thicknesses are converted to mechanical thicknesses using the yield strength envelope model, residual scatter obscures the systematic increase of mechanical thickness with age; perhaps this reflects the combination of uncertainties inherent in estimating flexural wavelength, such as extreme inelastic bending and accumulated thermoelastic stress. The bending moment needed to support the trench and outer rise topography increases by a factor of 10 as lithospheric age increases from 20 to 150 Ma; this reflects the increase in saturation bending moment that the lithosphere can maintain. Using a stiff, dry-olivine theology, we find that the lithosphere of the GDH1 thermal model (Stein and Stein, 1992) is too hot and thin to maintain the observed bending moments. Moreover, the regional depth seaward of the oldest trenches (similar to 150 Ma) exceeds the GDH1 model depths by about 400 m.

Sandwell, DT, Winterer EL, Mammerickx J, Duncan RA, Lynch MA, Levitt DA, Johnson CL.  1995.  Evidence for Diffuse Extension of the Pacific Plate from Pukapuka Ridges and Cross-Grain Gravity Lineations. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth. 100:15087-15099.   10.1029/95jb00156   AbstractWebsite

Satellite altimeter measurements of marine gravity reveal 100 to 200-km wavelength lineations over a wide area of the Pacific plate oriented roughly in the direction of absolute plate motion. At least three mechanisms have been proposed for their origin: small-scale convective rolls aligned in the direction of absolute plate motion by shear in the asthenosphere; diffuse N-S extension of the lithosphere resulting in lineated zones of extension (boudins); and minihotspots that move slowly with respect to major hotspots and produce intermittent volcanism. Recently, several chains of linear volcanic ridges have been found to be associated with the gravity lineations. Following ridgelike gravity signatures apparent in high-resolution Geosat gravity measurements, we surveyed a series of volcanic ridges that extend northwest from the East Pacific Rise flank for 2600 km onto 40 Ma seafloor. Our survey data, as well as radiometric dates on samples we collected from the ridges, provide tight constraints on their origin: (1) Individual ridge segments and sets of ridges are highly elongate in the direction of present absolute plate motion. (2) The ridges formed along a band 50 to 70-km-wide in the trough of one of the more prominent gravity lineations. (3) Radiometric dates of the largest ridges show no hotspot age progression. Moreover, the directions predicted for minihotspot traces older than 24 Ma do not match observed directions of either the gravity lineations or the ridges. Based on this last observation, we reject the minihotspot model. The occurrence of the ridges in the trough of the gravity lineation is incompatible with the small-scale convection model which would predict increased volcanism above the convective upwelling. We favor the diffuse extension model because it is consistent with the occurrence of ridges in the trough above the more highly extended lithosphere. However, the multibeam data show no evidence for widespread normal faulting of the crust as predicted by the model. Perhaps the fault scarps are buried under more than 30 m of sediments and/or covered by the elongated ridges. Finally, we note that if ridge-push force is much smaller than trench-pull force, then near the ridge axis the direction of maximum tensile stress must be perpendicular to the direction of absolute plate motion.

1994
Schubert, G, Moore WB, Sandwell DT.  1994.  Gravity over Coronae and Chasmata on Venus. Icarus. 112:130-146.   10.1006/icar.1994.1174   AbstractWebsite

The global spherical harmonic model of Venus' gravity field MGNP60FSAAP, with horizontal resolution of about 600 km, shows that most coronae have little or no signature in the gravity field. Nevertheless, some coronae and some segments of chasmata are associated with distinct positive gravity anomalies. No corona has been found to have a negative gravity anomaly. The spatial coincidence of the gravity highs over four closely spaced 300- to 400-km-diameter coronae in Eastern Eistla Regio with the structures themselves is remarkable and argues for a near-surface or lithospheric origin of the gravity signals over such relatively small features. Apparent depths of compensation (ADCs) of the prominent gravity anomalies at Artemis, Latona, and Heng-o Coronae are about 150 to 200 km. The geoid/topography ratios (GTRs) at Artemis, Latona, and Heng-o Coronae lie in the range 32 to 35 m km(-1). The large ADCs and GTRs of Artemis, Latona, and Heng-o Coronae are consistent with topographically related gravity and a thick Venus lithosphere or shallowly compensated topography and deep positive mass anomalies due to subduction or underthrusting at these coronae. At arcuate segments of Hecate and Parga Chasmata ADCs are about 125 to 150 km, while those at Fatua Corona, four coronae in Eastern Eistla Regio, and an arcuate segment of Western Parga Chasma are about 75 km. The GTRs at Fatua Corona, the four coronae in eastern Eistla Regio, and the arcuate segments of Hecate, Parga, and Western Parga Chasmata are about 12 to 21 m km(-1). The ADCs and GTRs of these coronae and arcuate chasmata segments are generally too large to reflect compensation by crustal thickness variations. Instead, they suggest compensation by thermally induced thickness variations in a moderately thick (approximate to 100 km) lithosphere. Alternatively, the gravity signals at these sites could originate from deep positive mass anomalies due to subduction or underthrusting. Weighted linear least squares fits to GTR vs h (long-wavelength topography) data from Heng-o and Fatua Coronae, the four coronae in eastern Eistla Regio, and the arcuate segments of Hecate, Parga, and western Parga Chasmata are consistent with compensation by thermally induced thickness variations of a dense lithosphere above a less dense mantle; the fits imply an average lithosphere thickness of about 180 km and an excess lithospheric density of about 0.5 to 0.7%. Gravity anomalies at the arcuate segments of Dali and Diana Chasmata that form Latona Corona, at Artemis Chasma, and other arcuate segments of Parga and Hecate Chasmata occur on the concave sides of the arcs. By analogy with gravity anomalies of similar horizontal scale (600 km-several thousand kilometers) on the concave sides of terrestrial subduction zone arcs, which are due in large part to subducted lithosphere, it is inferred that the gravity anomalies on Venus are consistent with retrograde subduction at Artemis Chasma, along the northern and southern margins of Latona Corona, and elsewhere along Parga and Hecate Chasmata. (C) 1994 Academic Press, Inc.

1991
Marks, KM, Sandwell DT.  1991.  Analysis of Geoid Height Versus Topography for Oceanic Plateaus and Swells Using Nonbiased Linear-Regression. Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth and Planets. 96:8045-8055.   10.1029/91jb00240   AbstractWebsite

We have investigated the relationship between geoid height and topography for 53 oceanic plateaus and swells to determine the mode of compensation. The ratio of geoid height to topography was obtained from the slope of a best line fit by functional analysis (i.e. nonbiased linear regression), a method that minimizes both geoid height and topography residuals. This method is more appropriate than traditional least squares analysis that minimizes only geoid height residuals, because uncertainties are present in both data types. We find that approximately half of the oceanic and continental plateaus analyzed have low ratios that are consistent with Airy-compensated crustal thickening. The remaining plateaus, however, have higher geoid/topography ratios than predicted by the simple Airy model, and the seismically determined Moho depths beneath some of these features are too shallow for crustal thickening alone. A two-layer Airy compensation model, composed of thickened crust underlain by an anomalously low density "mantle root", is used to explain these observations. The Walvis Ridge, and the Agulhas, Crozet, and north Kerguelen plateaus have geoid/topography ratios and Moho depths that are consistent with the two-layer Airy model. The proximity of the Agulhas Plateau to a RRR triple junction during its early development, and the excessive volcanism at active spreading ridges that created the Crozet and north Kerguelen plateaus and the Walvis Ridge, may have produced regions of enhanced depletion and hence the low-density mantle anomalies. If this explanation is correct, then the low-density mantle anomaly persists over time and remains embedded in the lithosphere beneath the oceanic feature.