What Is Geoid In Surveying? Geoid vs Ellipsoid Comparison

What Is Geoid In Surveying? Geoid vs Ellipsoid Comparison

What is Geoid in Surveying?

A geoid is a mathematical model of the Earth’s surface that is used as a basis for geodetic surveys. It approximates the shape and size of the Earth to provide a better understanding of the topography and features of the planet.

The geoid is essential for accurate surveying and mapping and is used in navigation and positioning systems

Geoid is a more accurate representation of the earth’s shape. Geoid height is the distance from a geodetic datum to sea level, and geoid slope is the tangent slope of a line connecting two points on the geoid.

Surveying involves going on location to measure distances and angles. The data that results from surveys are used in map-making, engineering, city planning, and other calculations that require accurate sizing.

Surveying can be done with different technological tools such as GPS or laser range finders. Precision is one of the most important aspects in project success in this sector.

In the long run, precise measurements lead to exact calculations, and precise calculations lead to precise specifications. Accurately determining the elevation of a job site is a must.

However, our globe does not have the smooth, spherical shape that many people believe it to. Earth’s surface is extremely uneven and rough.

It’s termed a geoid because of its wacky shape. In order to accurately assess surface elevations, a geoid model of the global mean sea level is used.

What Is The Origin Of This Shape, And Why Do We Use It?

When a geoid is used to measure the depths of earthquakes or any other deep object, they can get a more precise reading. Today we’re still use version “WGS84” (World Geodetic System of 1984).

Calculating depth and distance would be a snap if Earth were a perfect sphere, as we already have the formulae for doing it on a sphere.

If you were to sit atop a ball, it would look more like an ellipsoid, which is what the Earth most closely resembles.

Although ellipsoid calculations aren’t as simple as spherical calculations, they are nonetheless well-known and doable. It’s still not an ellipse because we have seas and mountains and valleys and many other things that don’t belong in an ellipsoid.

When you think of a geoid, you think of an imaginary sea surface that is undulating over the entire planet, not only in the oceans.

The link between the geoid, the ellipsoid, and the real form of the earth can be summarized as follows:

geoid + ellipsoid = Earth

An Example That Is More Simplified.

The Earth’s gravitational field isn’t completely consistent. Most people think of the world as having an oblate shape, but even if it were spherical and didn’t rotate, the gravitational pull would be different all around the planet, due to variations in density.

Magma distributions, the density and weight of distinct geological compositions in the earth’s crust, mountain ranges, deep-sea trenches, crust compaction due to glaciers, and so on are all factors that contribute.

There wouldn’t be the same amount of water everywhere if the globe was submerged in water.

There would be a difference in elevation between sea level and Earth’s center based on the integral of gravity strength from that position to the center of the earth.

In other words, the geoid level corresponds to the water level. When the earth’s density increases, the geoid is more likely to rise, as the earth exerts a stronger gravitational pull.

Geoid Vs Ellipsoid

A geoid is an imaginary sea surface that represents the shape of the earth.

An ellipsoid is an approximation of a sphere, with the flattest surface possible in the mathematical sense. The geoid and ellipsoid are very similar in shape and are used interchangeably by most people.

Geoid is the most accurate representation of Earth, while the ellipsoid is an abstract model or mathematical calculation of the geoid.

The ellipsoid is calculated by taking a sphere and squashing it in certain areas and stretching it out in others.

Mount Everest, for instance, just barely passes over this imaginary surface we call “Earth. “If you were to walk to the top of Mount Everest you would see the curvature of Earth’s surface.

You would notice how the Earth’s curvature is most pronounced in the middle of continents and near the poles, but when you look into space you would see it everywhere.

The geoid is a similar mathematical calculation, but because it takes into account gravity variation, it closely resembles the real surface of Earth.

Using a geoid model in surveying is more accurate than using a best-fit ellipsoid model. The geoid can be used to calculate and measure things that wouldn’t have the same precision if you calculated them by using a best-fit ellipsoid model.

Using An Ellipsoid Or Geoid Model, How Does It Affect Surveying?

Your job as a surveyor necessitates working with data that is consistently measured over the entire site. The information provided by geoid models is critical, even though the planet’s overall shape may seem inconsequential to a single surveying location.

In particular, the vertical datum of a place is established using ellipsoid and geoid models. Aerial photogrammetry and surveying rely on the vertical datum in conjunction with other calculations, such as the ground sample distance.

This unit of measurement marks the point at which you begin mapping topography, or the zero point of elevation.

It’s common practice to use geodetic datums, but there are actually two different types of vertical datums that can be used for surveying.

Tides datums, on the other hand, are derived from measurements of the change in water surface levels over time.

Due to the vast majority of surveys taking place on the ground, this type of measurement is rarely appropriate.


The height of the geoid relative to a specific ellipsoid of reference is known as the geoid’s undulations.

According to EGM96 geoid, the undulation is not uniform since different countries use different mean sea levels as a reference.

How Can We Maintain The Consistency Of Your Data Using Vertical Datums?

Vertical datums include both ellipsoid and geoid models (there are several). An important tool for surveyors is the vertical datum, which serves as a point of reference for determining elevation (both positive and negative).

Vertical datums can be divided into tidal and geodetic. Let’s disregard tidal datums, which are less relevant to most surveyors because they deal with the interface between the ocean and land.

Using the same geodetic datums throughout a project’s lifecycle is crucial for surveyors to ensure accuracy. In the middle of a project, switching between ellipsoid and geoid models can lead to inaccurate data.

A topographical survey and a design file both utilize distinct datums and coordinate systems, so you’ll need to convert them both. In the absence of this, the measurements will not be consistent.

A simple coordinates converter has been created by Propeller to assist with this. A useful tool for creating local grids, or arbitrary coordinate reference systems, that are only applicable to a single location.

There are three distinct types of height to consider when converting elevation data:

  1. Ellipsoid height (h) is the distance between an ellipsoid and a point on the Earth’s surface that the ellipsoid stands above. There’s another name for it: the geodetic height (not to be confused with geodetic datums). Using coordinates from a GPS receiver, the elevation data is based on the more inaccurate ellipsoid, and must be translated to match the geoid.
  1. Offset values (N) between reference geoid and elliptical models are known as geoid height (N).
  2. The orthometric height (H) is the distance between the geoid and a location on the Earth’s surface. According to the geoid, sea level is measured in feet above sea level. An orthometric height is the measurement used to express distances in feet above (or below) sea level

Examples of How Geoids Are Used

Geoids are mainly used to model earth sea level for oceanic surveys. There are two different types of vertical datums, e.g., tide height and ellipsoid height, which are used depending on the survey area.

Surveyors usually use the surface station datum or geoid. A geodetic latitude and longitude are determined by triangulation by measuring offsets between reference points and recording these offsets in a database.

The geoid can be used to determine sea surface levels if the topography is flat, as it would be in areas where there are no significant elevation differences (e.g., sheltered bays). The geoid is used in conjunction with some form of topographic data to determine the position of reference surfaces and vertical datums.

The geoid can also be used to measure the height of a mountain, or any other object above the “normal” level.

The geoid is also used to determine the elevation of any point on the Earth’s surface, in other words, to determine the difference in height between any two points relative to mean sea level. The data obtained by geoid analysis is also used to determine other aspects of the Earth’s surface such as its shape and gravity field.

Geoid Applications

The geoid is used in the following applications:

  1. In Earth satellite remote sensing and geoprocessing data processing to determine local reference surfaces, e.g., normal surface.
  2. In oceanography to determine local sea level, e.g., tidal datums (not applicable for surveying).
  3. In cadastral to determine the surface of the land being surveyed (also called a reference surface).
  4. In navigation to determine a ship’s position using a satellite system.
  5. In land surveying to establish the position of high-precision GPS receivers and for other high-precision positioning applications, e.g., 3D mapping and KML processing.
  6. In hydrography to determine mean sea level over the entire Earth (not applicable for surveying).
  7. In geology and geomorphology to analyze Earth surface changes, e.g., tectonics, landslides, erosion, etc.

Geoid in Surveying FAQs

What is geoid in surveying?

The geoid is the mathematical model used by geoscientists to represent the shape of Earth’s surface. It is accurate and fully representative of Earth’s actual shape, and it can be used in surveying.

What is the difference between geoid and ellipsoid?

Elliptical models are abstract calculations of their geometric counterparts on a sphere. Geoids are mathematical models that 4 accurately represent the geometric shape of Earth’s surface at a particular location.

How do I convert between ellipsoid, geoid and ellipsoid?

If you have access to a coordinate’s converter, such as the one created by Propeller, you will be able to: Convert between different ellipsoid or geoid models and datum. Adjust coordinate systems to account for differences in latitude between different ellipsoids.

How does geoid impact surveying?

Surveying depends on accurate measurements. Geoid models provide a consistent measure of height and elevations that is more accurate than best-fit ellipsoid models, even when they are converted between coordinate systems.

Are separate systems used for each type of datum?

In surveying, you will typically use a single datum and coordinate system, which is the same in both your data and the files you produce.

What is geoid height?

It is the distance between the geometric center of an ellipsoid model and a point on Earth’s surface that satisfies the geoid model.

What is geoid in surveying?

The geoid is a mathematical model used by geoscientists to represent the shape of Earth’s surface, regardless of its location at any particular point. It can be used in surveying calculations.

How is geoid calculated?

Add the orthometric height and geoid height to get the ellipsoidal height: h = H + N. By inputting latitude and longitude into the egm96geoid function, you may get the height of the geoid using EGM96.

What is geoid shape?

Using a geoid, scientists may more accurately determine the depth of earthquakes or any other deep item beneath the earth’s surface. In contrast to this, the Earth’s shape is more like that of an ellipsoid, which is what a ball looks like if you sit on top of it.

Why do we need a geoid?

Earth’s geoid is a measurement of Earth’s gravitational field, and provides data that can be used to calculate the tides, along with providing information regarding the shape and height of the land.

What is geoid shortest answer?

Earth’s geoid is a measurement of Earth’s gravitational field. It provides data about the shape and height of land, as well as tidal movement due to gravity.

What are some examples of how geoids are used?

Geoids are mainly used to model earth sea level for oceanic surveys. The geoid can also be used to measure the height of a mountain, or any other object above the “normal” level.

What is geoid of the earth shape?

As stated before, the geoid is a mathematical model used by geoscientists to represent the shape of Earth’s surface. It is accurate and fully representative of Earth’s actual shape, and it can be used in surveying.

If you have any more questions about geoids or their effect on surveying, please visit our discussion forum.

Why the Earth is called blue planet?

Because of the abundance of water on its surface, Earth has been dubbed the “Blue Planet.”

In our solar system, there has been no evidence of liquid water, although it is believed that Europa on Jupiter and Enceladus on Saturn have liquid oceans beneath a frozen crust.

How do you calculate mean sea level?

It is possible to calculate an “instant mean sea level” by subtracting the measured heights from the astronomical tide.

This means that the instant mean sea level is a random variable that can be used for statistical purposes as long as there are no periodic oscillations caused by astronomical factors.

Why is the shape of the Earth geoid answer?

Because of this, the Geoid isn’t a perfect sphere. The rotation of the Earth causes the planet’s form to change.

Because the equator receives the most centrifugal force and the poles receive the least, the Earth bulges out at the equator, resulting in the oblate ellipsoid form we see today.

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