Elevation and Relief - Definitions and Methods


CHAPTER 10

ELEVATION AND RELIEF

The elevation of points on the ground and the relief of an area affect the movement, positioning, and, in some cases, effectiveness of military units. Soldiers must know how to determine locations of points on a map, measure distances and azimuths, and identify symbols on a map. They must also be able to determine the elevation and relief of areas on standard military maps. To do this, they must first understand how the mapmaker indicated the elevation and relief on the map.
10­1. DEFINITIONS

There must be a reference or start point to measure anything. The reference or start point for vertical measurement of elevation on a standard military map is the datum plane or mean sea level, the point halfway between high tide and low tide. Elevation of a point on the earth's surface is the vertical distance it is above or below mean sea level. Relief is the representation (as depicted by the mapmaker) of the shapes of hills, valleys, streams, or terrain features on the earth's surface.

10­2. METHODS OF DEPICTING RELIEF

There are several methods used by mapmakers to depict relief of the terrain.

a. Layer Tinting. Layer tinting is a method of showing relief by color. A different color is used for each band of elevation. Each shade of color, or band, represents a definite elevation range. A legend is printed on the map margin to indicate the elevation range represented by each color. However, this method does not allow the map user to determine the exact elevation of a specific point--only the range.

b. Form Lines. Form lines are not measured from any datum plane. Form lines have no standard elevation and give only a general idea of relief. Form lines are represented on a map as dashed lines and are never labeled with representative elevations.

c. Shaded Relief. Relief shading indicates relief by a shadow effect achieved by tone and color­-that results in the darkening of one side of terrain features, such as hills and ridges. The darker the shading, the steeper the slope. Shaded relief is sometimes used in conjunction with contour lines to emphasize these features.

d. Hachures. Hachures are short, broken lines used to show relief. Hachures are sometimes used with contour lines. They do not represent exact elevations, but are mainly used to show large, rocky outcrop areas. Hachures are used extensively on small­scale maps to show mountain ranges, plateaus, and mountain peaks.

e. Contour Lines. Contour lines are the most common method of showing relief and elevation on a standard topographic map. A contour line represents an imaginary line on the ground, above or below sea level. All points on the contour line are at the same elevation. The elevation represented by contour lines is the vertical distance above or below sea level. The three types of contour lines (Figure 10­1) used on a standard topographic map are as follows:

(1) Index. Starting at zero elevation or mean sea level, every fifth contour line is a heavier line. These are known as index contour lines. Normally, each index contour line is numbered at some point. This number is the elevation of that line.
(2) Intermediate. The contour lines falling between the index contour lines are called intermediate contour lines. These lines are finer and do not have their elevations given. There are normally four intermediate contour lines between index contour lines.

(3) Supplementary. These contour lines resemble dashes. They show changes in elevation of at least one-half the contour interval. These lines are normally found where there is very little change in elevation, such as on fairly level terrain.