Google Maps Now With Elevation Contours in Terrain View

(Reprinted from Google’s Lat Long Blog, link)

Last summer, I (Editor, the original author’s name is Iliya Kalai) used the contour lines on a topographic map to find my way around the Adirondacks. When I joined Google Seattle as an intern in the fall, I was hoping to do something that would impact everyday users. I was given the same responsibility and freedom that a full-timer enjoys, and armed with this, I set out to add contour lines to Terrain Maps — not just in the Adirondacks, but across the globe! Now when you view Terrain Maps, you’ll see contour lines, making it easier to determine the slope of the land.

Contour lines depict elevation change by connecting points of equal elevation. Where contour lines are close together, you can expect a steep slope; where they are spread out, you can expect flatter terrain. They help highlight the elevation of areas like cities or plains where shading alone doesn’t capture gradual changes in elevation.

Now, at a glance you can see the height of the world’s peaks, or plan your next camping trip. Contour lines can even help you find a flatter bike route for your daily commute, which is key if you live in a city like Seattle. And with this release just in time for my next internship this summer, I’m looking forward to hiking Mt. Rainier.

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4 Responses to “Google Maps Now With Elevation Contours in Terrain View”

  1. Bryan says:

    What digital data source did the contour data come from? I cannot find the answer to this anywhere!

  2. kelsonv says:

    My guess is SRTM90 worldwide and a mix of SRTM30 and DEM10 and DEM30 for the USA. ESRI has recently made a processed version of SRTM90 available via their world data disk but they are available free online a variety of places (just google it) and elsewhere.

  3. Bryan says:

    Do you suppose the contours are available as vector files, complete with elevation attributes? Perhaps shapefiles or ArcInfo coverages?

  4. nathaniel says:

    The source data is available free in raster format. I do not know of a free source of derived contours. If you have a GIS system at your disposal there are several easy ways to generate the contours from the raster source.