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Internal and external potential-field estimation from regional vector data at varying satellite altitude

Author(s): Plattner, Alain; Simons, Frederik J

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Abstract: When modelling satellite data to recover a global planetary magnetic or gravitational potential field, the method of choice remains their analysis in terms of spherical harmonics. When only regional data are available, or when data quality varies strongly with geographic location, the inversion problem becomes severely ill-posed. In those cases, adopting explicitly local methods is to be preferred over adapting global ones (e.g. by regularization). Here, we develop the theory behind a procedure to invert for planetary potential fields from vector observations collected within a spatially bounded region at varying satellite altitude. Our method relies on the construction of spatiospectrally localized bases of functions that mitigate the noise amplification caused by downward continuation (from the satellite altitude to the source) while balancing the conflicting demands for spatial concentration and spectral limitation. The ‘altitude-cognizant’ gradient vector Slepian functions (AC-GVSF) enjoy a noise tolerance under downward continuation that is much improved relative to the ‘classical’ gradient vector Slepian functions (CL-GVSF), which do not factor satellite altitude into their construction. Furthermore, venturing beyond the realm of their first application, published in a preceding paper, in the present article we extend the theory to being able to handle both internal and external potential-field estimation. Solving simultaneously for internal and external fields under the limitation of regional data availability reduces internal-field artefacts introduced by downward-continuing unmodelled external fields, as we show with numerical examples. We explain our solution strategies on the basis of analytic expressions for the behaviour of the estimation bias and variance of models for which signal and noise are uncorrelated, (essentially) space- and band-limited, and spectrally (almost) white. The AC-GVSF are optimal linear combinations of vector spherical harmonics. Their construction is not altogether very computationally demanding when the concentration domains (the regions of spatial concentration) have circular symmetry, for example, on spherical caps or rings—even when the spherical-harmonic bandwidth is large. Data inversion proceeds by solving for the expansion coefficients of truncated function sequences, by least-squares analysis in a reduced-dimensional space. Hence, our method brings high-resolution regional potential-field modelling from incomplete and noisy vector-valued satellite data within reach of contemporary desktop machines.
Publication Date: 5-Jun-2017
Citation: Plattner, Alain, and Frederik J. Simons. "Internal and external potential-field estimation from regional vector data at varying satellite altitude." Geophysical Journal International 211, no. 1 (2017): 207-238. doi:10.1093/gji/ggx244.
DOI: doi:10.1093/gji/ggx244
ISSN: 0956-540X
EISSN: 1365-246X
Pages: 207-238
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Geophysical Journal International
Version: Author's manuscript

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