Project Type

URC Presentation

College or School


Class Year






Faculty Research Advisor

David Mattingly

Second Faculty Research Advisor

Cameron Wake


Aspects of climate dynamics like sea level rise (SLR) will have profound impacts on coastlines worldwide. While SLR as a direct result of melting ice has been studied extensively, it is also important to look at secondary factors, such as the change in gravitational field due to redistribution of mass. The geoid is a gravitational equipotential map of Earth that shows where the mean sea level of the planet would be solely due to its rotation and mass distribution. Per Newtonian physics, massive objects experience gravitational attraction. Therefore, liquid water, which is mobile, will adjust to changes in Earth’s gravitational field. This leads to an uneven distribution of water around large masses.

While land masses are fixed in location, Antarctica has an accumulation of ice that is susceptible to climate change. Antarctic ice melt will not only increase the mean sea level but also change the geoid. Using the gravity field data collected by the GRACE satellite from the University of Colorado-Boulder, I re-created the Earth’s current geoid. I then removed various percentages of the Antarctic ice cap and recalculated the geoid. From this I calculated how the changing gravitational field will adjust SLR.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.