Encyclopedic Entry

It's all downhill from here.

Photograph by Doug Pierson, MyShot

Highs and Lows
The Earth's highest elevation point is at the summit of Mt. Everest in Nepal. It measures 8,848 meters (29,029 feet). The Earth's lowest land elevation point is at the Dead Sea, located at the border of Israel and Jordan. Its shores have an elevation of 420 meters (1,385 feet) below sea level.

Elevation is distance above sea level.

Elevations are usually measured in meters or feet. They can be shown on maps by contour lines, which connect points with the same elevation; by bands of color; or by numbers giving the exact elevations of particular points on the Earths surface. Maps that show elevations are called topographic maps.

Elevation influences climate, as well as where and how people live. Most of the worlds people live on coastal plains at elevations of 150 meters (500 feet) or less. Some cultures have adapted to higher elevations. In Tibet, a region in central Asia, people live at elevations as great as 5,334 meters (17,500 feet). Above this elevation, the climate becomes too cold for growing crops, and there is also not enough oxygen in the air to sustain human life.


Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry



to adjust to new surroundings or a new situation.



all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

Encyclopedic Entry: climate

coastal plain


low, flat land lying next to the ocean.

Encyclopedic Entry: coastal plain

contour line


line joining points of equal elevation.



agricultural produce.

Encyclopedic Entry: crop



height above or below sea level.

Encyclopedic Entry: elevation



chemical element with the symbol O, whose gas form is 21% of the Earth's atmosphere.

sea level


base level for measuring elevations. Sea level is determined by measurements taken over a 19-year cycle.

Encyclopedic Entry: sea level



to support.

topographic map


map showing natural and human-made features of the land, and marked by contour lines showing elevation.


Media Credits

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Kim Rutledge
Melissa McDaniel
Diane Boudreau
Tara Ramroop
Santani Teng
Erin Sprout
Hilary Costa
Hilary Hall
Jeff Hunt


Tim Gunther
Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society


Kara West
Jeannie Evers

Educator Reviewer

Nancy Wynne


Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society


Dunn, Margery G. (Editor). (1989, 1993). "Exploring Your World: The Adventure of Geography." Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society.

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