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Height above mean sea level

Height above mean sea level is a measure of a location's vertical distance (height, elevation or altitude) in reference to a vertical datum based on a historic mean sea level. In geodesy, it is formalized as orthometric height. The zero level varies in different countries due to different reference points and historic measurement periods. Climate change and other forces can cause sea levels and elevations to vary over time.[1]


Elevation or altitude above sea level is a standard measurement for:

Units and abbreviations

Elevation or altitude is generally expressed as "metres above mean sea level" in the metric system, or "feet above mean sea level" in United States customary and imperial units. Common abbreviations in English are:

  • AMSL – above mean sea level[3]
  • ASL – above sea level[4]
  • FAMSL – feet above mean sea level[5]
  • FASL – feet above sea level[6]
  • MAMSL – metres above mean sea level[5]
  • MASL – metres above sea level[5][6]
  • MSL – mean sea level[7]

For elevations or altitudes, often just the abbreviation MSL is used, e.g., Mount Everest (8849 m MSL), or the reference to sea level is omitted completely, e.g., Mount Everest (8849 m).[7]

Methods of measurement

Altimetry is the measurement of altitude or elevation above sea level. Common techniques are:[8][9]

Accurate measurement of historical mean sea levels is complex. Land mass subsidence (as occurs naturally in some regions) can give the appearance of rising sea levels. Conversely, markings on land masses that are uplifted (due to geological processes) can suggest a relative lowering of mean sea level.[10]

See also


  1. ^ "Sea Level: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers" Liverpool, UK: National Oceanography Centre. Retrieved 31 January 2024.
  2. ^ "Altitude, Flight Level and Height". SKYbrary Aviation Safety. Retrieved 31 January 2024.
  3. ^ "TOWAIR Determination". Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved 3 February 2024. Site Elevation (AMSL) – The elevation of the site above mean sea level (AMSL).
  4. ^ "General Concepts". Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center. Retrieved 6 April 2024. Sometimes, you will still see the abbreviation 'ASL' used as well; it stands for 'Above Sea Level'.
  5. ^ a b c Jaramillo, Camilo; et al. (November–December 2020). "2020 ACVIM Forum On Demand Research Abstract Program: Abstract E45". Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 34 (6): 2967. doi:10.1111/jvim.15904. PMC 7968404. PMID 33037851. The horses lived at five different altitudes: 0 masl (n=23), 1000 mamsl (3280 famsl, n=25)...
  6. ^ a b Negrini, Robert M.; et al. (July 2006). "The Rambla highstand shoreline and the Holocene lake-level history of Tulare Lake, California, USA". Quaternary Science Reviews. 25 (13): 1599–1618. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2005.11.014. elevations from 210 fasl (64 masl) to 230 fasl (70 masl) on the Kettleman City 7.5' USGS topographic map
  7. ^ a b Moore, G. W. K.; et al. (November 2011). "Global Warming, El Niño, and High-Impact Storms at Extreme Altitude: Historical Trends and Consequences for Mountaineers". Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. 50 (11): 2197–2209. JSTOR 26175013. Base Camp, 5029 m MSL ... 8570 m without the use of supplementary oxygen, an altitude record
  8. ^ Florinsky, Igor V. (2016). "Chapter 3: Digital Elevation Models". Digital Terrain Analysis in Soil Science and Geology (2nd ed.). Academic Press. pp. 77–108. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-804632-6.00003-1. ISBN 978-0128046326.
  9. ^ "Introduction to Altimeters". UAV Navigation. Retrieved 20 April 2024.
  10. ^ Church, J. A.; Clark, P. U. (2013). "Chapter 13: Sea Level Change" (PDF). Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1137–1216. Retrieved 20 April 2024.
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Height above mean sea level
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