How Significant is the Dynamic Component of the North American Vertical Datum?

E. Rangelova 1 , W. Van Der Wal 2 , and M.G. Sideris 1
  • 1 Department of Geomatics Engineering, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB, T2N 1N4, Canada
  • 2 Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands


One of the main current geodetic activities in North America is the definition and establishment of a geoid-based vertical datum that will replace the official CGVD28 and NAVD88 datums in Canada and the USA, respectively. The new datum will also have a time-dependent (dynamic) component required by the targeted one-centimetre accuracy of the datum. Heights of the levelling benchmarks are subject to temporal changes, which contribute to the degradation of the accuracy of the datum and increase the misfit of the geoid heights determined gravimetrically and by GNSS/levelling. The zero level surface, i.e., the geoid, also changes with time, most significantly due to postglacial rebound, climate-induced loss of polar ice masses and mountain glaciers, and hydrology variations. In this study, we examine the possible changes of the datum due to the aforementioned factors. We are mostly concerned with postglacial rebound as it can contribute more than 1 mm per year and more than 1 cm per decade to the geoid change. We also assess the significance of the temporal geoid and benchmark height changes and show that, compared to its current accuracy, the geoid change is only significant after a decade mostly in the flat areas of central Canada.

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