Science banner image

U N A V C O ,     A     N O N - P R O F I T     U N I V E R S I T Y - G O V E R N E D     C O N S O R T I U M ,     F A C I L I T A T E S     G E O S C I E N C E     R E S E A R C H     A N D     E D U C A T I O N     U S I N G     G E O D E S Y.



UNAVCO is a university-governed consortium uniquely positioned to advance and support the geodesy community's science goals. Over the last decade, UNAVCO's scope has expanded significantly with many collaborations to serve new science communities and including those who focus on the deformation of ice, the Earth's response to ground water, sea level, and other aspects of the hydrosphere, and renewed interest in imaging the structure of the atmosphere. Here UNAVCO showcases our community's applications of space geodesy and science products, and highlights its science, covering results for the solid earth, the cryosphere, environmental and hydrogeodesy, and ocean and atmospheric geodesy.

Do you need help with any of the Science section topics listed here?

  • New geodetic results published in the peer-review literature to consider for a UNAVCO Science Snapshots or to include in our community bibliography?
  • Links to media coverage of science, engineering or technology advances relevant to geodesy and/or UNAVCO?
  • Suggestions of any other science, engineering or technology highlights that are relevant to geodesy and/or UNAVCO?
  • Help with finding colleagues, e.g. other scientists or engineers, working on a specific aspect of geodesy?
  • Help with media relations if you are preparing media coverage of some aspect of geodesy?
  • Questions or comments about any of the materials within the Science section?
  • Email scienceunavco.org for help with these or if you cannot find what you need in the science topics covered below.

Earth and the tools we use to study it are constantly changing. The tectonic plates are continuously in motion, though so slowly that even with our highest precision instruments we need months or years of observations to measure it. Over the last several decades, the advent of space-based geodetic techniques have improved our ability to measure tectonic plate motion by several orders of magnitude in spatial and temporal resolution as well as accuracy, and to establish stable terrestrial and celestial reference frames required to achieve these improvements. The research with these systems has led to revolutionary progress in our understanding of plate boundaries and plate interiors.

Ice covers approximately 10% of Earth’s land surface at the present, with most of the ice mass being contained in the Greenland and Antarctica continental ice sheets. Designing and undertaking geodetic experiments that enable researchers to improve our understanding of ice dynamics so that we can better predict (through numerical models) the response of the glaciers to climate change, and the feedback of this response to the climate, is an important challenge for geodesists.

Through its sensitivity to mass redistribution and accurate distance measurements, geodesy is uniquely posed to answer fundamental questions about issues relating to water and the environment. Geodetic observations are enabling us, for the first time, to follow the motion of water within Earth’s system at global scales and to characterize changes in terrestrial groundwater storage at a variety of scales, ranging from continental-scale changes in water storage using gravity space missions, to regional and local changes using InSAR, GNSS, leveling, and relative gravity measurements of surface deformation accompanying aquifer-system compaction.

Seventy five percent of Earth's crust is unobservable using solely electromagnetic energy-based geodetic techniques. Seafloor geodesy can now expand geodetic positioning to off-shore environments. Researchers can see the effects of changes in Earth's crust far beyond what we can measure with instruments placed solely on dry land.

Space geodesy utilizes electromagnetic signals propagating through the atmosphere of Earth, providing information on tropospheric temperature and water vapor and on ionospheric electron density. Thus, in the early twenty-first century, the goal of geodesy has evolved to include study of the kinematics and dynamics of both Earth’s atmosphere and the solid Earth.

Natural hazard mitigation, the effects of climate change, and optimum use of water resources are major areas of concern for humankind today. Geodetic research associated with earthquakes and volcanoes have far-reaching goals of providing early warnings and mitigating future hazard events on a global scale. As the population density increases and more people live in proximity to seismically active faults, understanding the nature of earthquakes remains a vital goal of the Earth sciences.

The incorporation and calibration of new technologies as an extension of geodetic research is a burgeoning opportunity that is being avidly embraced by the scientific community. High-resolution images and 3D/4D topography maps both inspire and facilitate field-based tests of a new generation of quantitative models of mass transport mechanisms. Open access to data, tools and facilities for processing, analysis, and visualization, and new algorithms and workflows are transforming the landscape of geodetic scientific collaboration.

Last modified: Wednesday, 14-May-2014 16:25:39 UTC


Sponsored by

National Science Foundation Logo National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo