Working with Elevation Data
Written by Barbara Parmenter,
revised January 9, 2011
The standard format for elevation data in GIS is a digital elevation model (DEM) in raster format. The ArcGIS 10.x extension, Spatial Analyst, has a number of tools for using DEMs, including surface tools
(derive slope, aspect, contour lines, shaded relief, and viewsheds) and hydrological processing tools
(derive flow direction, flow accumulation, watersheds, and drainage networks). The ArcGIS 10.x
extension 3D Analyst, has tools for examining elevation data in 3D and for creating more exact surface models called TINS (triangulated irregular networks) from contour lines and other data sources.
This tip sheet covers some basic information about working with elevation data. Use this sheet to
prepare data and understand general processing – you will need to refer to the ArcGIS Desktop Help
(Extensions – Spatial Analyst, 3D Analyst) for exact instructions on various functions.
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