Impact of loading displacements on SLR-derived parameters and on the consistency between GNSS and SLR results
Displacements of the Earth's surface caused by tidal and non-tidal loading forces are relevant in high-precision space geodesy. Some of the corrections are recommended by the international scientific community to be applied at the observation level, e.g., ocean tidal loading (OTL) and atmospheric tidal loading (ATL). Non-tidal displacement corrections are in general recommended not to be applied in the products of the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, in particular atmospheric non-tidal loading (ANTL), oceanic and hydrological non-tidal corrections. We assess and compare the impact of OTL, ATL and ANTL on SLR-derived parameters by reprocessing 12 years of SLR data considering and ignoring individual corrections. We show that loading displacements have an influence not only on station long-term stability, but also on geocenter coordinates, Earth Rotation Parameters, and satellite orbits. Applying the loading corrections reduces the amplitudes of annual signals in the time series of geocenter and station coordinates. The general improvement of the SLR station 3D coordinate repeatability when applying OTL, ATL and ANTL corrections are 19.5 %, 0.2 % and 3.3 % respectively, w.r.t. the solutions without loading corrections. ANTL corrections play a crucial role in the combination of optical (SLR) and microwave (GNSS, VLBI, DORIS) space geodetic observation techniques, because of the so-called Blue-Sky effect: SLR measurements can be carried out only under cloudless sky conditions—typically during high air pressure conditions, when the Earth's crust is deformed, whereas microwave observations are weather-independent. Thus, applying the loading corrections at the observation level improves SLR-derived products as well as the consistency with microwave-based results. We assess the Blue-Sky effect on SLR stations and the consistency improvement between GNSS and SLR solutions when ANTL corrections are included. The omission of ANTL corrections may lead to inconsistencies between SLR and GNSS solutions of up to 2.5 mm for inland stations. As a result, the estimated GNSS-SLR coordinate differences correspond better to the local ties at the co-located stations when applying ANTL corrections.