In this study an attempt is made to establish height system datum connections based upon a gravity field and steady-state ocean circulation explorer (GOCE) gravity field model and a set of global positioning system (GPS) and levelling data. The procedure applied in principle is straightforward. First local geoid heights are obtained point wise from GPS and levelling data. Then the mean of these geoid heights is computed for regions nominally referring to the same height datum. Subsequently, these local mean geoid heights are compared with a mean global geoid from GOCE for the same region. This way one can identify an offset of the local to the global geoid per region. This procedure is applied to a number of regions distributed worldwide. Results show that the vertical datum offset estimates strongly depend on the nature of the omission error, i.e. the signal not represented in the GOCE model. For a smooth gravity field the commission error of GOCE, the quality of the GPS and levelling data and the averaging control the accuracy of the vertical datum offset estimates. In case the omission error does not cancel out in the mean value computation, because of a sub-optimal point distribution or a characteristic behaviour of the omitted part of the geoid signal, one needs to estimate a correction for the omission error from other sources. For areas with dense and high quality ground observations the EGM2008 global model is a good choice to estimate the omission error correction in theses cases. Relative intercontinental height datum offsets are estimated by applying this procedure between the United State of America (USA), Australia and Germany. These are compared to historical values provided in the literature and computed with the same procedure. The results obtained in this study agree on a level of 10 cm to the historical results. The changes mainly can be attributed to the new global geoid information from GOCE, rather than to the ellipsoidal heights or the levelled heights. These historical levelling data are still in use in many countries. This conclusion is supported by other results on the validation of the GOCE models.
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