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An Assessment of Global Positioning System Velocity Uncertainty in California

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We analyze data from 580 continuous global positioning system (GPS) stations in California to quantify differences in published velocity estimates from five analysis centers. Horizontal and vertical rates for individual stations can differ up to 5 mm/yr, with systematic differences in some areas comparable to deformation rates. Published velocity uncertainties vary between analysis centers and are systematically underreported in the horizontal relative to empirical uncertainties calculated from the scatter of analysis center velocities. In the vertical, published velocity uncertainties are both over and underreported and vary more widely between centers. An interpolated ensemble vertical velocity field shows high-subsidence regions in the Central Valley and Salton Trough have the largest empirical uncertainties, while station density has a modest impact on uncertainties. Applications that rely on subcentimeter GPS accuracy should consider the possibility that formal errors published with velocity rate estimates understate true velocity uncertainties in both the horizontal and vertical.

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