The rigorous determination of orthometric heights

Robert Tenzer, P. Vaníček, M. Santos, W. E. Featherstone, M. Kuhn

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


The main problem of the rigorous definition of the orthometric height is the evaluation of the mean value of the Earth's gravity acceleration along the plumbline within the topography. To find the exact relation between rigorous orthometric and Molodensky's normal heights, the mean gravity is decomposed into: the mean normal gravity, the mean values of gravity generated by topographical and atmospheric masses, and the mean gravity disturbance generated by the masses contained within geoid. The mean normal gravity is evaluated according to Somigliana-Pizzetti's theory of the normal gravity field generated by the ellipsoid of revolution. Using the Bruns formula, the mean values of gravity along the plumbline generated by topographical and atmospheric masses can be computed as the integral mean between the Earth's surface and geoid. Since the disturbing gravity potential generated by masses inside the geoid is harmonic above the geoid, the mean value of the gravity disturbance generated by the geoid is defined by applying the Poisson integral equation to the integral mean. Numerical results for a test area in the Canadian Rocky Mountains show that the difference between the rigorously defined orthometric height and the Molodensky normal height reaches ∼0.5 m.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-92
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Geodesy
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Mean gravity
  • Normal height
  • Orthometric height
  • Plumbline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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