I accept I am being a pedant here, but feel the semantics are important..

If I were to drawn a path representing a 'route' between 3 random points on the earth's surface, then establish the nearest elevation points, say every 20m along that path, would you consider that set of triples to be the:

  1. The 'Route Elevation'
  2. The 'Route Contour'
  3. Something else

The definition seems to be used interchangeably, and I'm not sure which one is (more) correct.

The definition of 'Contour' - as I understand it, has a specific meaning of equivalence ie. the line is of constant value along its length, which a path containing various elevations wouldn't be.

Yet the definition of 'Elevation' is a height above a specific datum point, rather than a collection of triples describing it.

The reason this data is an array of triples not just an array of elevation values is the route can be explicitly declared as a pair of lat/longs, however my elevation data may not fall exactly along that path, and so will be an array of triples separate from the route data.

  • How about route topology? It doesn't explicitly refer to elevation but if the route shape can be described entirely with that set of triples, "topology" seems to fit. Alternately route geometry?
    – 08Dc91wk
    Oct 5, 2016 at 7:29
  • Well because to continue my pedantry ;-) ... 'topology' is the study of land shapes and so strictly speaking only tangentially related to the property of elevation. I would consider 'Route Geometry' describing the shape of the route itself, not just elevation..?
    – Neil
    Oct 5, 2016 at 9:53
  • Topology is not just the 'study of',it can also refer to the topological property of something (in this case the route). But yes it is not explicitly referring to elevation. 'Elevation' however seems too narrow. Profile as suggested by Matthew works well.
    – 08Dc91wk
    Oct 5, 2016 at 10:05

1 Answer 1


I would call it a "route profile".

An elevation reading at a particular point will always be an estimate based on available data. It could be worth stating explicitly how you are making that estimate, either by interpolation or in your case taking the nearest known elevation.

  • Hmm, so that might work quite well as one use for this is to construct a profile graph of the route. Yep, the estimatation/interpolation you describe is the reason this data is a separate set of tuples from the route geometry itself.
    – Neil
    Oct 5, 2016 at 9:55

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