There is a need to accurately link the water level to the shoreline vertical datum for various applications including coastal management, lake/river/estuary/wetland hydrological or storm surge modeling/ forecasting. Coastal topography is historically surveyed and referenced to the predetermined vertical datum in terms of orthometric heights, or the heights above the geoid, which is poorly known in terms of accuracy and lack of adequate spatial resolution for coastal applications such as estuary or storm surge modeling. We demonstrate an accurate linking of the lake surface to a shoreline datum using satellite techniques, including GPS buoy and satellite altimetry, water level gauges, and local geoid and lake circulation models. The possible error sources are analyzed and an error budget is reported in this study. An innovated method to estimate geoid height near the water level gauge using a GPS buoy is proposed. It is found that at a 95% confidence interval, the method is consistent with the National Geodetic Survey GEOIID03 geoid model. The lake surface represented using a lake circulation model provided by the Great Lakes Forecasting Systems is also verified with kriging based on the data (1999 - 2001) from the water level gauge, and TOPEX/POSEIDON altimeter. Mean discrepancies of 2.7 and 7.2 cm are found with the data from the gauges around Lake Erie, and from the combination of the gauges and the altimeter, respectively. It reveals that the current dominant limitation of more accurate linking of water surface to shoreline is the insufficient knowledge of geoid in the current models. Further improvement is feasible through more accurate and higher resolution modeling of the lake geoid.
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