Static deformations and gravity changes at the Earth's surface due to atmospheric loading

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W. Rabbel
J. Zschau


     Deformations and gravity changes at the Earth's surface due to regional and global air pressure variations are estimated for a radially stratified Earth. The results are as follows:
Vertical displacements of seasonal character have maximum amplitudes of ±0.5 cm. (Anti-)Cyclones, however, can cause vertical displacements of up to ±2.5 cm.
Horizontal displacements have amplitudes less than ±2.5 mm.
Horizontal principal strains may have amplitudes up to 10-8. They reduce to about ±1.5⋅10-9 for seasonal changes in the air pressure distribution.
— The total gravity perturbation consisting of the Newtonian attraction of air masses and of self-gravitation due to the elastic deformation may go up to ±20 μgal in the case of (anti-)cyclones, and ±3 μgal in the case of seasonal air pressure changes.
— The total tilt due to seasonal air pressure variations can be as high as ±1.5 mseca. For passing (anti-)cyclones this value may go up to ±10 mseca.
     All the above values have to be modified in the direct vicinity of coastlines. The modification is only slight for the displacements and the secondary gravity effect, but it is important for the other components. There, the necessary modification may amount to several hundred percent depending on the type of deformation component and on the distance to the coastline.

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Rabbel, W., & Zschau, J. (1984). Static deformations and gravity changes at the Earth’s surface due to atmospheric loading. Journal of Geophysics, 56(1), 81-99. Retrieved from


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