What Does Topography Mean

Topography is the study of the surface features of an area. Scientists, civil engineers and hobbyists study topography to determine natural hazards and land use. Topography can be depicted on a map through indications of elevation and relief.


Topographic features include cliffs, mountains, hills and valleys. Water features such as stream beds and lakes can be monitored for changes that may affect the floodplain or surrounding area.


Hobbyists use topography and topographic maps for hiking and for orienteering. By studying the topography, hobbyists are able to navigate their way easily.

Scientists and Civil Engineers

Scientists and civil engineers use topography and topographic maps to determine natural hazard risks, such as earthquakes, landslides and flooding. They use it to plan bridges and levee projects to determine the safety of such projects.

Topographic Maps

Topographic maps show the 3D topography, or the elevation of the area, on a 2D surface. Contour lines follow areas of equal elevation.

Determining Topography

Traditionally, survey teams measure angles and distances to determine topography. Remote sensing and satellites are more modern methods that can also be used.

READ  Where Is Yellowstone National Park Located