Observations of ocean tidal load response in South America from subdaily GPS positions

Hilary R. Martens, Mark Simons, Susan Owen, Luis Rivera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


We explore Earth's elastic deformation response to ocean tidal loading (OTL) using kinematic Global Positioning System (GPS) observations and forward-modelled predictions across South America. Harmonic coefficients are extracted from up to 14 yr of GPS-inferred receiver locations, which we estimate at 5 min intervals using precise point positioning. We compare the observed OTL-induced surface displacements against predictions derived from spherically symmetric, non-rotating, elastic and isotropic (SNREI) Earth models.We also compare sets of modelled predictions directly for various ocean-tide and Earth-model combinations. The vector differences between predicted displacements computed using separate ocean-tide models reveal uniform-displacement components common to all stations in the South America network. Removal of the network-mean OTL-induced displacements from each site substantially reduces the vector differences between observed and predicted displacements. We focus on the dominant astronomical tidal harmonics from three distinct frequency bands: semidiurnal (M2), diurnal (O1) and fortnightly (Mf). In each band, the observed OTL-induced surface displacements strongly resemble the modelled displacement-response patterns, and the residuals agree to about 0.3 mm or better. Even with the submillimetre correspondence between observations and predictions, we detect regional-scale spatial coherency in the final set of residuals, most notably for the M2 harmonic. The spatial coherency appears relatively insensitive to the specific choice of ocean-tide or SNREI-Earth model. Varying the load model or 1-D elastic structure yields predicted OTL-induced displacement differences of order 0.1 mm or less for the network. Furthermore, estimates of the observational uncertainty place the noise level below the magnitude of the residual displacements for most stations, supporting our interpretation that random errors cannot account for the entire misfit. Therefore, the spatially coherent residuals may reveal deficiencies in the a priori SNREI Earth models. In particular, the residuals may indicate sensitivity to regional deviations from standard globally averaged Earth structure due to the presence of the South American craton.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberggw098
Pages (from-to)1637-1664
Number of pages28
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Satellite geodesy
  • South America
  • Tides and planetary waves
  • Time-series analysis


Dive into the research topics of 'Observations of ocean tidal load response in South America from subdaily GPS positions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this