Oceanic signals in observed motions of the Earth’s pole of rotation

Author: Rui M. Ponte, J. Marshall and D. Stammer
October 27, 1997

Ponte, R.M., D. Stammer, and J. Marshall, 1998. Oceanic signals in observed motions of the Earth’s pole of rotation. Nature, 319, 476-479.

Motion of the Earth's pole of rotation relative to its crust, commonly referred to as polar motion, can be excited by a variety of geophysical mechanisms1. In particular, changes in atmospheric wind and mass fields have been linked to polar motion over a wide range of timescales, but substantial discrepancies remain between the atmospheric and geodetic observations. Here we present results from a nearly global ocean model which indicate that oceanic circulation and mass-field variability play important roles in the excitation of seasonal to fortnightly polar motion. The joint oceanic and atmospheric excitation provides a better agreement with the observed polar motion than atmospheric excitation alone. Geodetic measurements may therefore be used to provide a global consistency check on the quality of simulated large-scale oceanic fields.