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Journal of Geodesy

, Volume 91, Issue 1, pp 69–90 | Cite as

Differences between mean tide level and mean sea level

  • P. L. WoodworthEmail author
Original Article

Abstract

This paper discusses the differences between mean tide level (MTL) and mean sea level (MSL) as demonstrated using information from a global tide gauge data set. The roles of the two main contributors to differences between MTL and MSL (the M4 harmonic of the M2 semidiurnal tide, and the combination of the diurnal tides K1 and O1) are described, with a particular focus on the spatial scales of variation in MTL–MSL due to each contributor. Findings from the tide gauge data set are contrasted with those from a state-of-the-art global tide model. The study is of interest within tidal science, but also has practical importance regarding the type of mean level used to define land survey datums. In addition, an appreciation of MTL–MSL difference is important in the use of the historical sea level data used in climate change research, with implications for some of the data stored in international databanks. Particular studies are made of how MTL and MSL might differ through the year, and if MTL is measured in daylight hours only, as has been the practice of some national geodetic agencies on occasions in the past.

Keywords

Tide gauge measurements Ocean tides Hydrographic datums 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This work was undertaken when the author was an Honorary Research Fellow at the National Oceanography Centre in Liverpool. I would like to thank Mark Tamisiea and David Pugh (NOC) and Peter Hogarth (Kongsberg Maritime) for discussions on the need to understand possible MTL/MSL biases when both quantities are included in sea level time series. Richard Ray (Goddard Space Flight Center) and Thomas Wahl (University of Southampton) provided valuable comments and information. The International Hydrographic Organization tidal constants were made available via David Blackman (NOC). Many thanks are due to the providers of data to the GESLA-2 set. Some of the figures in this paper were generated using the Generic Mapping Tools (Wessel and Smith 1998).

Supplementary material

190_2016_938_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (722 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 721 KB)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Oceanography CentreJoseph Proudman BuildingLiverpoolUK

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