GRACE Satellite Contributions to the Geosciences

Clark Wilson, UT Austin

The GRACE satellite mission (a University of Texas-led mission) was launched in 2002 and continues to provide a new view of Earth with its precise measurement of the global gravity field and month-to-month changes. The GRACE global mean gravity field has improved the accuracy and spatial resolution over previous results by orders of magnitude. However, it is the astounding ability of GRACE to see month to month changes in the field that has revolutionized many aspects of the Earth Sciences. GRACE is able to see monthly mass changes on Earth’s surface with a precision of about a centimeter layer of water, at a spatial resolution of a few hundred square kilometers. The result has been entirely new quantitative measures of regional and global water balance, ice sheet mass budgets, post-glacial rebound, earthquake displacement fields, and other phenomena.


Clark R. Wilson has been a Professor at the University of Texas at Austin since 1976, following studies in physics and geophysics at the University of California San Diego, and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He has been a member of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists since 1969, of the American Geophysical Union since 1971, and was President of the Austin Geological Society 1983-84. He was Chairman of the UT Geological Sciences Department 1990-94 and 2004-07. From 1996-99 he was at NASA Headquarters, Washington DC, as Program Scientist for Geodynamics. Wilson was Geodynamics Section President of the International Association of Geodesy 2000-03, and is currently on the Directing Board of the International Earth Rotation and Reference Frames Service, and is Treasurer of UNAVCO, the GPS consortium of US universities.