Course code GMGD310

GMGD310 Physical Geodesy

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Showing course contents for the educational year 2022 - 2023 .

Course responsible: Vegard Ophaug
Teachers: Christian Gerlach, Kristian Breili
ECTS credits: 10
Faculty: Faculty of Science and Technology
Teaching language: EN, NO
(NO=norsk, EN=Engelsk)
Teaching exam periods:
This course starts in Spring parallel. This course has teaching/evaluation in Spring parallel.
Course frequency: Annually
First time: Study year 2020-2021
Preferential right:
Course contents:

The course covers mathematical models and methods used for describing Earth's gravity field: gravitation, rotation and potential, terrestrial and satellite gravimetry, geoid computation and height systems, including elements from parameter estimation and statistics.

The Department of Geomatics educates candidates who, upon completion of their degree, will be able to contribute to reaching the following selected Sustainable Development Goals: (3) Good Health and Well-being, (6) Clean Water and Sanitation, (9) Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, (11) Sustainable Cities and Communities, and (13) Climate Action.

Geodesy concerns monitoring variations in the Earth's shape, gravity field, and rotation, i.e., dynamic processes linked to geophysics, hydrology, cryosphere, atmospheric science, ocanography, and climate change. The measured changes span timescales from seconds to decades, with some processes continuing over thousands (postglacial rebound) or millions (plate tectonics) of years. As such, geodesy forms a fundamental tool for monitoring the Earth system, and, in turn, developing strategies for sustainable adaptation of human behavior to it.

A key concern is the continued improvement of infrastructure, which is decisive for the development of sustainable cities and communities. For example, an improved vertical reference frame will give more reliable predictions of future sea-level rates, which in turn will be used for coastal planning and climate studies. A global geodetic reference frame is understood as critical infrastructure, which long-term maintenance is the concern of the UN-GGIM Subcommittee on Sustaining the Global Geodetic Reference Frame (

Learning outcome:

The students will learn the theoretical basis for computation methods and measurement techniques in physical geodesy, and apply this to problems in geoid computation and height systems.

By the end of the course, the students will be able to describe a physical reference system including its gravity field, perform measurements with relative and absolute gravimeters, implement numerical computation methods for the determination of Earth's gravity field and the geoid, and apply these to gravity data from terrestrial and satellite-based sensors.

Learning activities:
Lectures, colloquium work, student presentations, exercises.
Teaching support:
Teaching support will be given primarily in connection with that part of the structured teaching that is set aside for exercise guidance. It will also be possible to communicate directly with the subject teacher by appointment during office hours.

Hofmann-Wellenhof and Moritz (2006): Physical geodesy, 2nd edition, ISBN: 978-3-211-33544-7.

Supporting literature: Torge and Müller (2012): Geodesy, 4th edition, ISBN: 978-3-11-025000-8.

An overview as well as supplementary material (lecture compendiums, articles) will be made available on Canvas.


Calculus, linear algebra, differential equations. Classical mechanics. Programming and Data Processing ( Introduction to data analysis and visualization ( or Statistics (

Geodesy (, Applied Satellite Geodesy (, Parameter Estimation (

Recommended prerequisites:
Advanced Programming (INF200), Applied Linear Algebra (MATH280), Marine Geodesy (GMGD230).
Mandatory activity:
Exercises. Compulsory, submitted work must be passed in order for the student to sit for the exam.

Evaluation of written report (30%)

Oral exam at the end of the semester (70%)

Nominal workload:
250 hours.
Entrance requirements:
Special requirements in Science
Type of course:

Lectures: 26 hours

Discussion groups: 26 hours

Exercises: 26 hours


The course was formerly a part of Geodesy Graduate Course (GMGD300).

Students who demand teaching in English must put this request at least two weeks before the teaching period starts.

The course arrangements will be discussed with the external examiner. The examiner will be present during the oral examination.
Examination details: Combined assessment: Letter grades