Measuring Land Elevation
Country: United States
Date: March 2009
How is the height of a mountain measured? Literally, what
device is used?
Measuring a mountain's height without having to climb it could be done with
a tool called a "transit". Essentially it uses basic geometry. In its simplest
form, the transit is placed at a certain point and using a scope on the transit
the mountain's peak is sighted. The angle that the scope makes with the
horizontal is measured. The scope is then moved a certain distance (along the
same line to the center of the base of the mountain), and a new sighting to the
peak is made. Thus, a triangle is formed between the point of the first
measurement, the point of the second measurement, and the peak of the mountain.
Of this triangle two angles and one length (the distance between the two measurements)
is known, and this is enough to give us the height of the mountain.
Greg (Roberto Gregorius)
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Update: June 2012