What is Geodesy?Due to technology, the knowledge of Earth's shape and landscapes has changed over the years. Thanks to geodesy, studying these changes has become easier and more precise. Geodesy focuses on Earth's size, orientation, shape, and gravitational field as well as fluctuations in these values.
Advances in modern technologies, such as GPS and synthetic aperture radar satellites, have allowed geodetic research to become even more precise. Modern geodesy gathers information using four basic techniques: positioning of geodetic instruments, altimetry, interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR), and gravity studies. Efficient positioning of radio telescopes, satellite lasers, and GPS is necessary for precise geodetic measurements. Altimetry measurements gather data through changes in elevation instead of measuring 3D changes by alternative positioning techniques. Altimetry satellites shoot pulses at Earth's surface in order to gain ground measurements. InSAR uses SAR observations to produce digital elevation models. Gravity studies use satellite orbits to measure gravitational changes because satellite orbits are very sensitive to gravitational changes which makes them useful when determining the shape of the Earth.
Applications (Global/Local) and Societal Implications
Geodesy can be used on a global scale to calculate global issues such as water budgets for each country.
Using satellites to measure sea levels helps determine these figures.
The same research methods can be applied on a local scale.Pictured above shows the use of geodetic
tools to gather information about river and lake water levels in the Congo. This helps give insight
into available ground water.
As a result of these technological advances and their implementations, people can be better informed about the societal impacts of small changes in Earth's environment. For example, the severity of hazards that pose threats to coastal regions, such as flooding due to rising sea levels, can be measured more accurately using geodetic methods. The precision of geodetic measurements and the variety of applications for geodetic data make geodesy make it essential for understanding further many of the Earth's processes and humanity's impact on those processes.
Wdowinski, S., & Eriksson, S. (n.d.). Geodesy in the 21st Century. Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union, 153-153.