This paper presents a method for approximating spherical functions from discrete data of a block-wise grid structure. The essential ingredients of the approach are scaling and wavelet functions within a biorthogonalisation process generated by locally supported zonal kernel functions. In consequence, geophysically and geodetically relevant problems involving rotation-invariant pseudodifferential operators become attackable. A multiresolution analysis is formulated enabling a fast wavelet transform similar to the algorithms known from one-dimensional Euclidean theory.

An intrinsically on the 2-sphere formulated proof of the closure and completeness of spherical harmonics is given in vectorial and tensorial framework. The considerations are essentially based on vector and tensor approximation in terms of zonal vector and tensor Bernstein kernels, respectively.

Using a stereographical projection to the plane we construct an O(N log(N)) algorithm to approximate scattered data in N points by orthogonal, compactly supported wavelets on the surface of a 2-sphere or a local subset of it. In fact, the sphere is not treated all at once, but is split into subdomains whose results are combined afterwards. After choosing the center of the area of interest the scattered data points are mapped from the sphere to the tangential plane through that point. By combining a k-nearest neighbor search algorithm and the two dimensional fast wavelet transform a fast approximation of the data is computed and mapped back to the sphere. The algorithm is tested with nearly 1 million data points and yields an approximation with 0.35% relative errors in roughly 2 minutes on a standard computer using our MATLAB implementation. The method is very flexible and allows the application of the full range of two dimensional wavelets.