Polar Drift in the 1990s Explained by Terrestrial Water Storage Changes

S. Deng, Sihang Liu*, X. Mo, Liguang Jiang, Peter Bauer‐Gottwein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

Secular polar drift underwent a directional change in the 1990s, but the underlying mechanism remains unclear. In this study, polar motion observations are compared with geophysical excitations from the atmosphere, oceans, solid Earth, and terrestrial water storage (TWS) during the period of 1981–2020 to determine major drivers. When contributions from the atmosphere, oceans, and solid Earth are removed, the residual dominates the change in the 1990s. The contribution of TWS to the residual is quantified by comparing the hydrological excitations from modeled TWS changes in two different scenarios. One scenario assumes that the TWS change is stationary over the entire study period, and another scenario corrects the stationary result with actual glacier mass change. The accelerated ice melting over major glacial areas drives the polar drift toward 26°E for 3.28 mas/yr after the 1990s. The findings offer a clue for studying past climate‐driven polar motion.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020GL092114
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume48
Issue number7
ISSN0094-8276
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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