The geoid: Definition and determination



The determination of the geoid has been one of the prime goals of geodesy. Knowledge of geoid undulations with respect to some reference surface was needed for the determination of the figure of the earth, for the precise reduction of distance measurements to a reference ellipsoid, and for the determination of the geocentric location of points on the surface of the earth. Currently and in the future, undulation information can also be used in geophysical studies related to crustal structures and in oceanographic studies related to sea surface topography. The actual determination of global geoids has been carried out by using gravimetric data, satellite-derived information related to the gravitational field of the earth, or a combination of the two techniques. Regional geoid determinations have been made by astrogeodetic techniques. For some applications of undulation information, undulation standard deviations of the order of ±5 m would be sufficient. Such an accuracy can be obtained by using data currently available. In the past few years, renewed interest in the geoid arose when the concept of satellite altimetry was proposed to measure the distance from the satellite to some area on the ocean surface.