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Concept# Normal height

Summary

Normal heights is a type of height above sea level introduced by Mikhail Molodenskii.
The normal height (or ) of a point is computed as the ratio of a point's geopotential number (i.e. its geopotential difference with that of sea level), by the average, normal gravity computed along the plumb line of the point. (More precisely, along the ellipsoidal normal, averaging over the height range from 0 — on the reference ellipsoid — to ; the procedure is thus recursive.)
Normal heights are thus dependent upon the reference ellipsoid chosen. The Soviet Union and many other Eastern European countries have chosen a height system based on normal heights, determined by geodetic precise levelling. Normal gravity values are easy to compute and "hypothesis-free", i.e., one does not have to know, as one would for computing orthometric heights, the density of the Earth's crust around the plumb line.
The reference surface that normal heights are measured from is called the quasi-geoid (or quasigeoid), a representation of mean sea level similar to the geoid and close to it, but lacking the physical interpretation of an equipotential surface. The geoid undulation with respect to the reference ellipsoid:
finds an analogue in the so-called height anomaly, :
The maximum geoid–quasigeoid separation (GQS), , is on the order of 5 meters in the Himalayas.
Alternatives include orthometric heights (geoid-based) and dynamic heights.

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Orthometric height

The orthometric height is the vertical distance H along the plumb line from a point of interest to a reference surface known as the geoid, the vertical datum that approximates mean sea level. Orthometric height is one of the scientific formalizations of a laypersons' "height above sea level", along with other types of heights in Geodesy. In the US, the current NAVD88 datum is tied to a defined elevation at one point rather than to any location's exact mean sea level.

Vertical position

Vertical position or vertical location is a position along a vertical direction above or below a given vertical datum (reference level). Vertical distance or vertical separation is the distance between two vertical positions. Many vertical coordinates exist for expressing vertical position: depth, height, altitude, elevation, etc. Points lying on an equigeopotential surface are said to be on the same vertical level, as in a water level.

Dynamic height

Dynamic height is a way of specifying the vertical position of a point above a vertical datum; it is an alternative for orthometric height or normal height. It can be computed by dividing the location's geopotential number by the normal gravity at 45 degree latitude (a constant). Dynamic height is constant if one follows the same gravity potential as one moves from place to place. Because of variations in gravity, surfaces having a constant difference in dynamic height may be closer or further apart in various places.

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