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When talking about geography the elevation of a certain point is how high it is compared to some reference point. Very often, the reference point is mean sea level, the level of the ocean midway between high and low tide on an average day.

Sometimes elevation is measured against the center of the earth. The problem there is that the earth does not really look like a ball, it looks more like a potato. This means, that while still at mean sea level (at the equator), some points are father away from the center of the earth than others. That way the peak of Chimborazo, a volcano in Ecuador is farther away from the center of the earth than the peak of Mount Everest. Yet, Mount Everest is higher above sea level.

An elevation sign at 8000 feet in the San Bernardino Mountains.