Continuous observations of temporal variations in the Earth's gravity field have recently become available at an unprecedented resolution of a few hundreds of kilometers. The gravity field is a product of the Earth's mass distribution, and these data - provided by the satellites of the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) - can be used to study the exchange of mass both within the Earth and at its surface. Since the launch of the mission in 2002, GRACE data has evolved from being an experimental measurement needing validation from ground truth, to a respected tool for Earth scientists representing a fixed bound on the total change and is now an important tool to help unravel the complex dynamics of the Earth system and climate change. In this review, we present the mission concept and its theoretical background, discuss the data and give an overview of the major advances GRACE has provided in Earth science, with a focus on hydrology, solid Earth sciences, glaciology and oceanography.
- Climate change
- Earth system dynamics