GRACE gravitational measurements of tsunamis after the 2004, 2010, and 2011 great earthquakes

Khosro Ghobadi‐Far*, Shin-Chan Han, Sébastien Allgeyer, Paul Tregoning, Jeanne Sauber, Saniya Behzadpour, Torsten Mayer-Gürr, Nico Sneeuw, Emile Okal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The 2004 Sumatra, 2010 Maule, and 2011 Tohoku great earthquakes triggered tsunamis as large as a few decimeters over a few 100 km in the open ocean. The transient ocean mass redistribution propagating as tsunamis changed the Earth’s gravity field enough to perturb the GRACE satellites’ orbits at ~ 500 km above the surface. The on-board microwave ranging system detected inter-satellite acceleration anomalies of up to 1.0–4.0 nm/s 2. There is good agreement between GRACE measurements and tsunami models for the three events. Complementarily to buoys, ocean bottom pressure sounders, and satellite altimeters, GRACE is sensitive to the long-wavelength spatial scale of tsunamis and provides an independent source of information for assessing alternate early earthquake and tsunami models. Our study demonstrates an innovative way of applying GRACE and GRACE Follow-On data to detect transient geophysical mass changes which cannot be observed by the conventional monthly Level-2 and mascon solutions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number65
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Geodesy
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


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