A numerical method for reorientation of rotating tidally deformed viscoelastic bodies

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Existing approaches for simulating the true polar wander (TPW) of a viscoelastic body can be divided into three categories: (i) a linear dynamic approach which uses the linearized Liouville equation (e.g., Wu and Peltier (1984) and Mitrovica et al. (2005)); (ii) a nonlinear dynamic approach which is based on the quasi-fluid approximation (e.g., Sabadini and Peltier (1981), Ricard et al. (1993), and Cambiotti et al. (2011)); and (iii) a long-term limit approach which only considers the fluid limit of a reorientation (e.g., Matsuyama and Nimmo (2007)). Several limitations of these approaches have not been studied: the range for which the linear approach is accurate, the validity of the quasi-fluid approximation, and the dynamic solution for TPW of a tidally deformed rotating body. We establish a numerical procedure which is able to determine the large-angle reorientation of a viscoelastic celestial body that can be both centrifugally and tidally deformed. We show that the linear approach leads to significant errors for loadings near the poles or the equator. Second, we show that slow relaxation modes can have a significant effect on large-angle TPW of Earth or other planets. Finally, we show that reorientation of a tidally deformed body driven by a positive mass anomaly near the poles has a preference for rotating around the tidal axis instead of toward it. At a tidally deformed body which does not have a remnant bulge, positive mass anomalies are more likely to be found near the equator and the plane perpendicular to the tidal axis, while negative mass anomalies tend to be near the great circle that contains the tidal and rotational axes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-248
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Planets
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Linear true polar wander theory
  • Quasi-fluid approximation
  • Tidally deformed
  • True polar wander


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