I wonder whether there's a way of learning how much of the Earth's surface is above or below a certain altitude (land on air only, i.e. excluding seas and oceans and land underwater).

E.g. the lowest/deepest point of the Earth's surface on land is the shore of the Dead Sea at 1355 ft below sea level standard. So above 1356 ft (413.3 m) below sea level 100% of the Earth's surface there are. The highest point of the Earth's surface is the summit of Mt Everest so 100% of the Earth's surface are within 29,032 ft (8849 m) above sea level. Now if I wanted to know how much of the Earth's surface is within say 10,000 ft (3048 m) above sea level, is there a good way to find out?

  • $\begingroup$ Maybe more challenging than it sounds? You'd have to use a full elevation dataset of the world and gather the elevation frequencies for every location. A computationally intensive project perhaps? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 6:36
  • $\begingroup$ @JeopardyTempest I think one needs a topographic map or something. $\endgroup$
    – Giovanni
    Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 7:01
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting point, I suppose that does shortcut the compiling of the frequency, as it sort of already does that. Think one could reasonably use a GIS package to calculate the area in each topographic layer then, smart thinking. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2022 at 7:09

1 Answer 1


What you want is known as a hypsograph or a hypsographic/hypsometric curve which shows the distribution of elevations of the Earth's land surfaces (and can be extended to include the distribution of depths in the oceans). You can find such curves on the Wikipedia Hypsometry page.

Interesting higher resolution versions for each of the Earth, Moon, Mars, and Venus are shown in "Topographic comparisons of uplift features on Venus and Earth: Implications for Venus tectonics.

If you want to create your own hypsograph for the Earth with higher resolution, you can download the data from the ETOPO Global Relief Model. You'll need to read the ETOPO 2022 User Guide and get the appropriate software to extract the GeoTIFF formatted data. Appropriate libraries exist for Python and other languages. GIS Stackexchange is a good place to ask questions about hypsometric curves or geoTIFF.


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