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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 . 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, and depth is used for points below the surface.

A sign at 8000 feet (2438 meters) in the San Bernardino Mountains.
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 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 system, vertical datum). 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, 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 equatorial bulge, the summits of Mt. Everest and Chimborazo have, respectively, the largest elevation and the largest geocentric distance.