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This article describes a concept from cartography and geodesy. Datum is also the singular form of data.

In geology, geography, cartography, surveying and other disciplines, a datum is a reference surface against which measurements can be made.

For instance, sea-level is commonly used as a datum against which height (or depth) of topographic features can be measured. Whilst the use of sea-level as a datum is useful for geologically recent topographic features, it should be remembered that sea-level has not stayed constant throughout geological time (see Vail-curve ).

On maps, heights and depths will typically be given in height above datum or depth below datum. Ordnance Survey maps define the Ordnance Survey Datum or OSD which is usually sea-level, but should be checked in the map legend.

On nautical charts, the depth and height of features shown on a chart are measured relative to the level of the "lowest astronomical tide", that is the lowest tide caused by gravity alone with no contribution from the weather.

Positions on nautical charts are also relative to a horizontal map datum such as WGS84.

External links

  • UK Ordnance Survey
  • US National Geodetic Survey

Last updated: 02-10-2005 03:01:31
Last updated: 03-15-2005 09:25:26