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Spline functions that approximate data given on the sphere are developed in a weighted Sobolev space setting. The flexibility of the weights makes possible the choice of the approximating function in a way which emphasizes attributes desirable for the particular application area. Examples show that certain choices of the weight sequences yield known methods. A convergence theorem containing explicit constants yields a usable error bound. Our survey ends with the discussion of spherical splines in geodetically relevant pseudodifferential equations.

Some new approximation methods are described for harmonic functions corresponding to boundary values on the (unit) sphere. Starting from the usual Fourier (orthogonal) series approach, we propose here nonorthogonal expansions, i.e. series expansions in terms of overcomplete systems consisting of localizing functions. In detail, we are concerned with the so-called Gabor, Toeplitz, and wavelet expansions. Essential tools are modulations, rotations, and dilations of a mother wavelet. The Abel-Poisson kernel turns out to be the appropriate mother wavelet in approximation of harmonic functions from potential values on a spherical boundary.