Weighing the ocean: Using a single mooring to measure changes in the mass of the ocean

Chris W Hughes, Mark E Tamisiea, Rory J Bingham, Joanne Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
425 Downloads (Pure)


Combining ocean and earth models, we show that there is a region in the central Pacific ocean where ocean bottom pressure is a direct measure of interannual changes in ocean mass, with a noise level for annual means below 3 mm water
equivalent, and a trend error below 1 mm/yr. We demonstrate this concept using existing ocean bottom pressure measurements from the region, from which we extract the annual cycle of ocean mass (amplitude 8.5 mm, peaking in late September), which is in agreement with previous determinations based on complex combinations of global data sets. This method sidesteps a number of limitations in satellite gravity-based calculations, but its direct implementation
is currently limited by the precision of pressure sensors, which suffer from significant drift. Development of a low-drift method to measure ocean bottom pressure at a few sites could provide an important geodetic constraint on
the earth system.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberL17602
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2012


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