|Scientists say the data gathered by the spacecraft will have numerous applications.|
One key beneficiary will be climate studies because the geoid can help researchers understand better how the great mass of ocean water is moving heat around the world.
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"I think everyone knows what a level is in relation to construction work, and a geoid is nothing but a level that extends over the entire Earth," explained Professor Reiner Rummel, the chairman of the Goce scientific consortium.
"So with the geoid, I can take two arbitrary points on the globe and decide which one is 'up' and which one is 'down'," the Technische Universitaet Muenchen researcher told BBC News.
In other words, the map on this page defines the horizontal - a surface on which, at any point, the pull of gravity is perpendicular to it.
Put a ball on this hypothetical surface and it will not roll - even though it appears to have "slopes". These slopes can be seen in the colours which mark how the global level diverges from the generalised (an ellipsoid) shape of the Earth.
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The geoid is of paramount interest to oceanographers because it is the shape the world's seas would adopt if there were no tides, no winds and no currents.
If researchers then subtract the geoid from the actual observed behaviour of the oceans, the scale of these other influences becomes apparent.
This is information critical to climate modellers who try to represent the way the oceans manage the transfer of energy around the planet.
But a geoid has many other uses, too. Having a global level underpins a universal system to compare heights anywhere on Earth.
In construction, for example, it tells engineers which way a fluid would naturally want to flow through a pipeline. [as in a very large scale where it's difficult to tell if a massive pipe is actually level or not]
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Geophysicists will also want to use the Goce data to try to probe what's happening deep within the Earth, especially in those places that are prone to quakes and volcanic eruptions.
"The Goce data is showing up new information in the Himalayas, central Africa, and the Andes, and in Antarctica," explained Dr Rune Floberghagen, Esa's Goce mission manager.
"This is, in one sense, not so surprising. These are places that are fairly inaccessible. It is not easy to measure high frequency variations in the gravity field in Antarctica with an aeroplane because there are so few airfields from which to operate."
Originally Posted by Mjolnir
So, lemme get this straight, blue areas are areas of very slightly less gravity? Or do I have it backwards?
Originally Posted by TwoCables
Well, y'know how we say things "100 feet above Sea Level"? Well, now thanks to this, we'll have something that I am guessing will be called the Geoid Level, or something.
But, just carefully read the article and you'll have a much better understanding of it than I can provide. However, the red part is 80 meters above this geoid level, and at the dark blue is 100 meters below it. It's like the Sea Level, only more accurate - but it's not related to Sea Level.