Processed LiDAR point cloud showing not only elevation, but heights of features as well.[citation needed][clarification needed]

The elevation of a geographic location is its height above or below a fixed reference point, most commonly a reference geoid, a mathematical model of the Earth's sea level as an equipotential gravitational surface (see Geodetic datum § Vertical datum). The term elevation 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, and depth is used for points below the surface.

Elevation is not to be confused with the distance from the center of the Earth. Due to the equatorial bulge, the summits of Mount Everest and Chimborazo have, respectively, the largest elevation and the largest geocentric distance.

Sign at 8,000 feet (2,438 m) in the San Bernardino Mountains of southern California (2009)
Vertical distance comparison
Elevation histogram of the Earth's surface, of which approximately 71% is covered with water

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