Height Systems and Vertical Datums: a Review in the Australian Context
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This paper reviews (without equations) the various definitions of height systems and vertical geodetic datum surfaces, together with their practical realisation for users in Australia. Excluding geopotential numbers, a height system is a one-dimensional coordinate system used to express the metric distance (height) of a point from some reference surface. Its definition varies according to the reference surface chosen and the path along which the height is measured. A vertical geodetic datum is the practical realisation of a height system and its reference surface for users, nominally tied to mean sea level. In Australia, the normal-orthometric height system is used, which is embedded in the Australian Height Datum (AHD). The AHD was realised by the adjustment of ~195,000 km of spirit-levelling observations fixed to limited-term observations of mean sea level at multiple tide-gauges. The paper ends by giving some explanation of the problems with the AHD and of the differences between the AHD and the national geoid model, pointing out that it is preferable to recompute the AHD.
The Version of Record of this manuscript has been published and is available in Journal of Spatial Science, 2006. http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/14498596.2006.9635062
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