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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 which of the summits of Mt. Everest or Chimborazo is at the higher elevation, as the Chimborazo summit is further from the Earth's center while the Mt. Everest summit is higher above mean sea level.

Maps and GIS

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

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.


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.

Global 1-kilometer map

This map is derived from GTOPO30 data that describes the elevation of Earth's terrain at intervals of 30 arcseconds (approximately 1 km). It uses color and shading instead of contour lines to indicate elevation.

N60-90, W150-180 N60-90, W120-150 N60-90, W90-120 N60-90, W60-90 N60-90, W30-60 N60-90, W0-30 N60-90, E0-30 N60-90, E30-60 N60-90, E60-90 N60-90, E90-120 N60-90, E120-150 N60-90, E150-180
N30-60, W150-180 N30-60, W120-150 N30-60, W90-120 N30-60, W60-90 N30-60, W30-60 N30-60, W0-30 N30-60, E0-30 N30-60, E30-60 N30-60, E60-90 N30-60, E90-120 N30-60, E120-150 N30-60, E150-180
N0-30, W150-180 N0-30, W120-150 N0-30, W90-120 N0-30, W60-90 N0-30, W30-60 N0-60, W0-30 N0-60, E0-30 N0-60, E30-60 N0-60, E60-90 N0-60, E90-120 N0-60, E120-150 N0-60, E150-180
S0-30, W150-180 S0-30, W120-150 S0-30, W90-120 S0-30, W60-90 S0-30, W30-60 S0-30, W0-30 S0-30, E0-30 S0-30, E30-60 S0-30, E60-90 S0-30, E90-120 S0-30, E120-150 S0-30, E150-180
S30-60, W150 S30-60, W120 S30-60, W90-120 S30-60, W60-90 S30-60, W30-60 S30-60, W0-30 S30-60, E0-30 S30-60, E30-60 S30-60, E60-90 S30-60, E90-120 S30-60, E120-150 S30-60, E150-180
S60-90, W150-180 S60-90, W120-150 S60-90, W90-120 S60-90, W60-90 S60-90, W30-60 S60-90, W0-30 S60-90, E0-30 S60-90, E30-60 S60-90, E60-90 S60-90, E90-120 S60-90, E120-150 S60-90, E150-180
Each tile is available at a resolution of 1800 × 1800 pixels (approximate file size 1 MB, 60 pixels = 1 degree, 1 pixel = 1 minute)

See also

External links