GOCE gravity gradients reveal relics of ancient continents under Antarctica

The combination of seismological and satellite gravity gradient imaging enhance our knowledge of Earth’s structure, especially in remote areas like the Antarctic continent, where even basic knowledge of lithospheric scale features is incomplete.

A research team from Kiel University and the British Antarctic Survey exploited the satellite gravity gradients measured from 2009 to 2013 by ESA’s GOCE satellite to pinpoint variations of gravity related to mass surplus or deficit at depth. Variations of gradient identified over cratons can be explained by changes of density in the crust and/or the underlying uppermost mantle, implying substantial differences in the lithospheric build-up.

This allows to hint possible structures associated with magmatic intrusions, sedimentary basins and other features mostly within the upper crust. As a conclusion, GOCE gravity gradients can be used to assess different characteristics of the lithosphere in apparently similar tectonic regimes (e.g. over cratons), where the seismic velocity structure is similar.

Read the full story or the article published on Scientific Reports from Nature Research.