## Abstract

Spherical harmonic series, commonly used to represent the Earth's gravitational field, are now routinely expanded to ultra-high degree (> 2,000), where the computations of the associated Legendre functions exhibit extremely large ranges (thousands of orders) of magnitudes with varying latitude. We show that in the degree-and-order domain, (ℓ, m), of these functions (with full ortho-normalization), their rather stable oscillatory behavior is distinctly separated from a region of very strong attenuation by a simple linear relationship: m = ℓ sin θ where θ is the polar angle. Derivatives and integrals of associated Legendre functions have these same characteristics. This leads to an operational approach to the computation of spherical harmonic series, including derivatives and integrals of such series, that neglects the numerically insignificant functions on the basis of the above empirical relationship and obviates any concern about their broad range of magnitudes in the recursion formulas that are used to compute them. Tests with a simulated gravitational field show that the errors in so doing can be made less than the data noise at all latitudes and up to expansion degree of at least 10,800. Neglecting numerically insignificant terms in the spherical harmonic series also offers a computational savings of at least one third.

Original language | English |
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Pages (from-to) | 603-615 |

Number of pages | 13 |

Journal | Journal of Geodesy |

Volume | 81 |

Issue number | 9 |

DOIs | |

State | Published - Sep 2007 |

## Keywords

- Legendre functions
- Recursion formulas
- Spherical harmonic series