Course title

Course code


Physical Geodesy


Introduction: Need to study gravity, historical review, research areas, applications, open questions

potential theory: some vector calculus, attraction and potential, potential of a solid body, laplace equation – exterior potential field, Poisson equation – interior potential field, spherical harmonics, boundary-value problems.

Gravity field of the Earth: Gravitation, gravity, attraction of a point mass, attraction of a rigid body, gravity and shape of the Earth, level surfaces and plumb lines, natural coordinates.

Normal gravity: Superposition principle, ellipsoid as an approximation of the Earth, the level ellipsoid, series expansion of the normal gravity field.

Gravimetry: Functionals of the gravity field, terrestrial gravimetry – absolute and relative, airborne gravimetry, spaceborne gravimetry, gradiometry, torsion balance, gravity networks.

Gravity field modelling: Linear model of physical geodesy, disturbing potential and gravity, anomalous potential and gravity, gravity reductions.

Geoid modelling: The Stokes integral, Koch’s formula, Vening-Meinesz formula, Molodensky’s approach, practical aspects.

Statistics of the gravity field: The power spectrum, Kaula’s rule of thumb, covariance functions..

Height systems: Height measurements, physical and geometric heights and their relationship, height systems around the world, Geoid as a vertical reference frame.

Temporal variations of the gravity field: Geophysical effects on gravity, loading theory, tides, hydrological loading, atmospheric loading, ocean loading, ice-mass loading, glacial isostatic adjustment.



  1. Hofmann-Wellenhof, B and Moritz, H (2006). Physical Geodesy. Springer        Vienna. doi:10.1007/978-3-211-33545-1.
  2. Torge, W (2001). Geodesy. 3rd edn. Walter de Gruyter. Berlin. New York.
  3. Vanícek, P and Krakiwsky, E (1986). Geodesy: The Concepts. 2nd edn.          Elsevier.