I have data I am publishing a WMS layer representing data under the surface of the water, say temperature at 100m depth. What is the accepted way to represent this in WMS GetCapabilities document?

Do I define the dimension like:

<Dimension name="elevation" 


<Dimension name="elevation" 

or something else or should a custom dimension be used in this case?

EPSG:5030 is a length parameter, it doesn't indicate that it's related to any projection or that it might indicate distance from mean sea level for that matter. see http://trac.osgeo.org/geotiff/wiki/VerticalCS
EPSG:5030 represents height above the WGS85 ellipsoid. I found a reference to EPSG:5715, but it doesn't say much other than it's 'msl depth' - does this mean values below msl should be positive?

2 Answers 2


After some further reading, it looks like the specifics of which orientation z values increase in depends on the specific vertical coordinate system (VCS) being used. Vertical systems oriented with 'z up' are height-based VCSes, as opposed to depth-based VCS where z is down. EPSG:5715 is an example of one such depth-based system, which when examined in the EPSG registry includes this information:

Vertical CS. Axis: depth (D). Orientation: down. UoM: m

The ArcGIS 10 help on vertical coordinate systems similarly states:

Another important part is whether the z-values represent heights (elevations) or depths. For each type, the z-axis direction is positive "up" or "down," respectively.

Finally, a proposed revision to the ISO 19111 standard includes this information on vertical datums:

vertical datum
Datum describing the relation of gravity-related heights or depths to the Earth

In most cases the vertical datum will be related to mean sea level. Ellipsoidal heights are treated as related to a three-dimensional ellipsoidal coordinate system referenced to a geodetic datum. Vertical datums include sounding datums (used for hydrographic purposes), in which case the heights may be negative heights or depths.

  • you mean no clients parse the elevation parameter? also i edited my question a bit, maybe this would help clarify what I'm looking for. Commented Feb 25, 2011 at 0:15
  • Hi Dave, I've rewritten my answer with further information. I had meant that no WMS clients I'm aware of explicitly parse the dimensions to determine if the CS is depth or height based, cheers
    – scw
    Commented Mar 1, 2011 at 21:33
  • Nice answer. The proposed ISO revision was news to me. Thanks. Commented Mar 2, 2011 at 18:47

For depth below the surface of the water there is EPSG:5831, and ESPG:5829 for heights above.

If you have a buoy floating on the sea with a temperature sensor dangling 100m below, you could describe it as at "Depth" of 100m w.r.t. EPSG:5831, or a "Height" at -100m w.r.t. EPSG:5829

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