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According to Stokes’ approach, given the gravity anomaly on the geoid as the boundary, a disturbing potential function satisfying some boundary conditions should be solved. The basic requirement is that the disturbing potential function should be harmonic in the region outside the geoid. However, since the normal gravity potential is not defined inside the reference ellipsoid (taking the WGS84 ellipsoid as an example), when the geoid is below the ellipsoidal surface, the disturbing potential function is not harmonic in the whole region outside the geoid, and is not defined on the whole geoid itself. These are theoretical difficulties in Stokes’ approach. To remove these difficulties from Stokes’ approach, this study provides a new formulation of Stokes’ approach. An inner ellipsoid with four fundamental parameters is chosen, two of which, the geocentric gravitational constant and the rotational angular velocity, coincide with the corresponding parameters of the WGS84 ellipsoid. The other two parameters, the semi-major axis and flattening, are different from the corresponding ones of the ellipsoid. Then, the normal gravity potential generated by the inner ellipsoid is determined, by requiring that it holds a constant on the surface of the inner ellipsoid or on the surface of the ellipsoid. With this new formulation, the disturbing potential function is harmonic in the whole region outside the geoid, and the difficulties in Stokes’ approach disappear. The new formulation proposed in this study is also adequate for analogous geodetic boundary-value problems.
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