Although not designed to map changes in Earth’s gravity over time, ESA’s extraordinary satellite has shown that the ice lost from West Antarctica over the last few years has left its signature.
More than doubling its planned life in orbit, GOCE spent four years measuring Earth’s gravity in unprecedented detail.
Scientists are now armed with the most accurate gravity model ever produced. This is leading to a much better understanding of many facets of our planet – from the boundary between Earth’s crust and upper mantle to the density of the upper atmosphere.
The strength of gravity at Earth’s surface varies subtly from place to place owing to factors such as the planet’s rotation and the position of mountains and ocean trenches.