A normal mode treatment of semi-diurnal body tides on an aspherical, rotating and anelastic Earth

Harriet C.P. Lau, Hsin Ying Yang, Jeroen Tromp, Jerry X. Mitrovica, Konstantin Latychev, David Al-Attar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Normal mode treatments of the Earth's body tide response were developed in the 1980s to account for the effects of Earth rotation, ellipticity, anelasticity and resonant excitation within the diurnal band. Recent space-geodetic measurements of the Earth's crustal displacement in response to luni-solar tidal forcings have revealed geographical variations that are indicative of aspherical deep mantle structure, thus providing a novel data set for constraining deep mantle elastic and density structure. In light of this, we make use of advances in seismic free oscillation literature to develop a new, generalized normal mode theory for the tidal response within the semi-diurnal and long-period tidal band. Our theory involves a perturbation method that permits an efficient calculation of the impact of aspherical structure on the tidal response. In addition, we introduce a normal mode treatment of anelasticity that is distinct from both earlier work in body tides and the approach adopted in free oscillation seismology. We present several simple numerical applications of the new theory. First, we compute the tidal response of a spherically symmetric, non-rotating, elastic and isotropic Earth model and demonstrate that our predictions match those based on standard Love number theory. Second, we compute perturbations to this response associated with mantle anelasticity and demonstrate that the usual set of seismic modes adopted for this purpose must be augmented by a family of relaxation modes to accurately capture the full effect of anelasticity on the body tide response. Finally, we explore aspherical effects including rotation and we benchmark results from several illustrative case studies of aspherical Earth structure against independent finite-volume numerical calculations of the semi-diurnal body tide response. These tests confirm the accuracy of the normal mode methodology to at least the level of numerical error in the finite-volume predictions. They also demonstrate that full coupling of normal modes, rather than group coupling, is necessary for accurate predictions of the body tide response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1392-1406
Number of pages15
JournalGeophysical Journal International
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


  • Surface waves and free oscillations
  • Theoretical seismology
  • Tides and planetary waves
  • Tomography


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