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Wavelet-based directional analysis of the gravity field: evidence for large-scale undulations

Abstract : In the eighties, the analysis of satellite altimetry data leads to the major discovery of gravity lineations in the oceans, with wavelengths between 200 and 1400 km. While the existence of the 200 km scale undulations is widely accepted, undulations at scales larger than 400 km are still a matter of debate. In this paper, we revisit the topic of the large-scale geoid undulations over the oceans in the light of the satellite gravity data provided by the GRACE mission, considerably more precise than the altimetry data at wavelengths larger than 400 km. First, we develop a dedicated method of directional Poisson wavelet analysis on the sphere with significance testing, in order to detect and characterize directional structures in geophys-ical data on the sphere at different spatial scales. This method is particularly well suited for potential field analysis. We validate it on a series of synthetic tests, and then apply it to analyze recent gravity models, as well as a bathymetry data set independent from gravity. Our analysis confirms the existence of gravity undulations at large scale in the oceans, with characteristic scales between 600 and 2000 km. Their direction correlates well with present-day plate motion over the Pacific ocean, where they are particularly clear, and associated with a conjugate direction at 1500 km scale. A major finding is that the 2000 km scale geoid undulations dominate and had never been so clearly observed previously. This is due to the great precision of GRACE data at those wavelengths. Given the large scale of these undulations, they are most likely related to mantle processes. Taking into account observations and models from other geophysical information, as seismological tomography, convection and geochemical models and electrical conductivity in the mantle, we conceive that all these inputs indicate a directional fabric of the mantle flows at depth, reflecting how the history of subduction influences the organization of lower mantle upwellings.
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M Hayn, I Panet, M Diament, M Holschneider, M Mandea, et al.. Wavelet-based directional analysis of the gravity field: evidence for large-scale undulations. Geophysical Journal International, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2012, 189 (3), pp.1430-1456. ⟨10.1111/j.1365-246X.2012.05455.x⟩. ⟨insu-01354321⟩

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