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Curtin scientist contributes to new World Gravity Map

Media release

A spatial science researcher from Curtin University has played a key role in the creation and validation of the World Gravity Map (WGM).

The project is a major international collaboration that, for the first time, maps the entire Earth’s gravity field in ultra-high resolution at spatial scales of less than two kilometres.

The global map was created from an existing high-resolution Earth gravity model enhanced by the gravitational signal from ultra-high-resolution elevation models.

Associate Professor Michael Kuhn, of the Department of Spatial Sciences, contributed to the project through his skills in global gravity modelling, made possible through software he has been developing over the past 15 years.

“My research for the past 15 years has developed computational techniques and tools for forward gravity modelling,” Associate Professor Kuhn said. “I have previously applied these techniques successfully to reveal fine structures of the gravity field over Australia.

“Now, with the aid of the supercomputing facilities operated by Western Australian supercomputing leader iVEC, I was able to transfer this work to a global scale for the WGM. At iVEC, I completed the intensive calculations for more than 230 million points in under four weeks by dividing the overall task into 672 separate computational jobs. Doing this huge task on a standard desktop computer would have taken almost six months to complete.”

The WGM will allow scientists and educators to understand the structure of the Earth in far greater detail than ever before, essentially being able to see the Earth ‘from the inside’.

“The WGM will have practical applications in many important areas,” Associate Professor Kuhn said. “In geophysics, for example, large resource deposits can be identified more accurately, with increased gravity showing possible high-density ore bodies. It will also greatly benefit the field of spatial sciences, where instrumentation needs to be very accurately oriented with respect to the Earth’s gravity.

“By being global and ultra-high resolution, the map enables a focus on global and regional as well as very localised and targeted areas.”

The WGM project was led by the Bureau Gravimetrique International and involved significant contributions from institutions around the world, including United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 

Associate Professor Kuhn’s contribution to the WGM was funded by the Australian Research Council and Curtin through a Curtin Research and Teaching Fellowship.

Contact: 
Associate Professor Michael Kuhn, Department of Spatial Sciences, Curtin University
Tel: 9266 7603, Email: Michael.Kuhn@curtin.edu.au  

Megan Meates, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 4241, Mobile: 0401 103 755, Email: megan.meates@curtin.edu.au