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File:Earth elevation histogram 2.svg
Elevation histogram of the surface of the Earth – approximately 71% of the Earth's surface is covered with water.

The elevation of a geographic location is its height above a fixed reference point, often the mean sea level. Elevation, or geometric height, is mainly used when referring to points on the Earth's surface, while altitude or geopotential height is used for points above the surface, such as an aircraft in flight or a spacecraft in orbit.

Less commonly, elevation is measured using the center of the Earth as the reference point. Due to equatorial bulge, there is debate whether the summits of Mt. Everest or Chimborazo are at the higher elevation, as Chimborazo is further from the Earth's center while Mt. Everest is higher above mean sea level.

Maps and GIS

A topographical map is the main type of map used to depict elevation, often through use of contour lines.

In a Geographic Information System (GIS), digital elevation models (DEM) are commonly used to represent the surface (topography) of a place, through a raster (grid) dataset of elevations. Digital terrain models are another way to represent terrain in GIS.

To determine elevation of a place, it must be surveyed, in reference to a ground control point.

Part of a topographic map of Haleakala (Hawaii), showing elevation.


The elevation of a mountain usually refers to its summit. The elevation of a hill also refers to the summit. A valley's elevation is usually taken from the lowest point but is often taken all over the valley.

See also

Look up elevation in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

External links

ast:Altitú de:Höhe über dem Meeresspiegel el:Υψόμετρο it:Altitudine simple:Height sk:Nadmorská výška sl:Nadmorska višina