Estonia switches from Russian to European vertical reference system

Estonia is giving up the Kronstadt Tide Gauge as its main reference point for measuring vertical elevation and altitude, and instead joining the European Vertical Reference System based on the Amsterdam Ordnance Datum. The step takes the country from the Russian to the European geodetic reference system.

Minister of the Environment Siim Kiisler (IRL) signed off on the necessary changes, ERR’s online news reported on Thursday. Preparations for the change had taken a long time, but in time for its 100th anniversary, Estonia was now finally changing systems, Kiisler said.

He added that moving from the Kronstadt Gauge to the Amsterdam Ordnance Datum meant a 15 to 24-centimeter elevation increase depending on the area. For example, Suur-Munamägi, at 317.2 m Estonia’s highest point, would now be 317.4 m above sea level, Kiisler explained.

The Kronstadt Tide Gauge serves as the reference point for altitude and elevation in Russia as well as in plenty of countries that used to belong to the Russian empire or the Soviet Union at some point. It is still widely used in Europe’s eastern countries, including Slovakia, Czechia, and Hungary.

According to director general of the Land Board, Tambet Tiits, the change was necessary for several reasons. “The Baltic elevation system of 1977 is obsolete, for instance, inaccurate physical parameters were used in its specification, and then there’s the wish to be in one and the same system with Europe. These reasons led to the decision to prepare everything necessary for the changeover to the European Vertical Reference System,” Tiits said.

He added that already by the year 2000 some 47 percent of all of the state’s elevation markers had been damaged, which had since made defining elevation both time-consuming and expensive. A state vertical network had been set up in the meantime that allowed for GPS referencing as well.

Most of Europe’s countries are already using the European system referencing the Amsterdam Ordnance Datum, including most countries in the region, e.g. Finland, Latvia, and Lithuania. With the introduction of the European reference system cross-border construction projects involving Estonia will no longer necessitate conversions.

A three-month transition period has been set for the system switch. In addition, all ongoing construction projects can still use the old reference system until Jan. 1, 2018.

Read more news on the city site of Tallinn.

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