Separation of tectonic and local components of horizontal GPS station velocities: a case study for glacial isostatic adjustment in East Antarctica
Turner, RJ and Reading, AM and King, MA, Separation of tectonic and local components of horizontal GPS station velocities: a case study for glacial isostatic adjustment in East Antarctica, Geophysical Journal International, 222, (3) pp. 1555-1569. ISSN 0956-540X (2020) [Refereed Article]
Accurate measurement of the local component of geodetic motion at GPS stations presents a challenge due to the need to separate this signal from the tectonic plate rotation. A pressing example is the observation of glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) which constrains the Earth’s response to ice unloading, and hence, contributions of ice-covered regions such as Antarctica to global sea level rise following ice mass loss. While both vertical and horizontal motions are of interest in general, we focus on horizontal GPS velocities which typically contain a large component of plate rotation and a smaller local component primarily relating to GIA. Incomplete separation of these components introduces significant bias into estimates of GIA motion vectors. We present the results of a series of tests based on the motions of GPS stations from East Antarctica: (1) signal separation for sets of synthetic data that replicate the geometric character of non-separable, and separable, GIA-like horizontal velocities; and (2) signal separation for real GPS station data with an appraisal of uncertainties. For both synthetic and real motions, we compare results where the stations are unweighted, and where each station is areal-weighted using a metric representing the inverse of the spatial density of neighbouring stations. From the synthetic tests, we show that a GIA-like signal is recoverable from the plate rotation signal providing it has geometric variability across East Antarctica. We also show that areal-weighting has a very significant effect on the ability to recover a GIA-like signal with geometric variability, and hence on separating the plate rotation and local components. For the real data, assuming a rigid Antarctic plate, fitted plate rotation parameters compare well with other studies in the literature. We find that 25 out of 36 GPS stations examined in East Antarctica have non-zero local horizontal velocities, at the 2σ level, after signal separation. We make the code for weighted signal separation available to assist in the consistent appraisal of separated signals, and the comparison of likely uncertainty bounds, for future studies.