New High-Resolution Map Shows That
Earth's Gravity Varies Depending On Location

21 August, 2013 - Gravity is often assumed to be the same everywhere on Earth, but it varies because the planet is not perfectly spherical or uniformly dense.

Want to lose weight fast? No need to adjust your diet - just move to higher ground. This weight change is the result of fluctuations in Earth's gravity, which a new high-resolution map shows are greater than thought, scientists say.

In addition, gravity is weaker at the equator due to centrifugal forces produced by the planet's rotation. It's also weaker at higher altitudes, further from Earth's centre, such as at the summit of Mount Everest.

Gravity map shows weakest gravity at summit of Mount Everest (middle). Credit: GGMplus/Curtin University

Their work is the first-of-its-kind to model gravity at unprecedented fine scales yet with near-global coverage.

The new models are beneficial for a wide range of scientific and engineering applications and freely available to the public.

Christian Hirt of Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, and colleagues combined gravity data from satellites and topographic data to map gravity changes between latitudes 60 north and 60 south, covering 80 per cent of Earth's land masses.

The map - that pinpoints unexpected locations with more extreme differences - consists of more than 3 billion points, with a resolution of about 250 meters.

Mount Nevado Huascaran in Peru, for example, has the lowest gravitational acceleration on the planet while the highest is at the surface of the Arctic Ocean.

"Nevado was a bit surprising because it is about 1,000 kilometers [620 miles] south of the equator," research leader Christian Hirt said.

"The increase in gravity away from the equator is more than compensated by the effect of the mountain's height and local anomalies."

High resolution gravity maps are important for civil engineering because accurately constructing tunnels, dams and even tall buildings requires knowledge of the local gravity to guide GPS measurements of height.


See also:
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