Comparison between geodetic and oceanographic approaches to estimate mean dynamic topography for vertical datum unification: evaluation at Australian tide gauges
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The direct method of vertical datum unification requires estimates of the ocean’s mean dynamic topography (MDT) at tide gauges, which can be sourced from either geodetic or oceanographic approaches. To assess the suitability of different types of MDT for this purpose, we evaluate 13 physics-based numerical ocean models and six MDTs computed from observed geodetic and/or ocean data at 32 tide gauges around the Australian coast. We focus on the viability of numerical ocean models for vertical datum unification, classifying the 13 ocean models used as either independent (do not contain assimilated geodetic data) or non-independent (do contain assimilated geodetic data). We find that the independent and non-independent ocean models deliver similar results. Maximum differences among ocean models and geodetic MDTs reach > 150 mm at several Australian tide gauges and are considered anomalous at the 99% confidence level. These differences appear to be of geodetic origin, but without additional independent information, or formal error estimates for each model, some of these errors remain inseparable. Our results imply that some ocean models have standard deviations of differences with other MDTs (using geodetic and/or ocean observations) at Australian tide gauges, and with levelling between some Australian tide gauges, of (Formula presented.). This indicates that they should be considered as an alternative to geodetic MDTs for the direct unification of vertical datums. They can also be used as diagnostics for errors in geodetic MDT in coastal zones, but the inseparability problem remains, where the error cannot be discriminated between the geoid model or altimeter-derived mean sea surface.
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