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DENVER (KDVR) — Denver is located 5,280 feet above sea level, which is why it is called the Mile High City.

Terms like altitude and elevation get tossed around a lot in Colorado and are generally used interchangeably. But have you ever wondered what the difference, if any, is between the two?

What is the difference between altitude and elevation?

Meteorologist Chris Tomer said that altitude and elevation are not interchangeable terms from a technical standpoint.

The elevation of a town does not change, but the air pressure or altitude does change all the time based on air pressure.

“For example, you might climb a 14er (the elevation of the 14er doesn’t change), but if an area of low pressure (a storm system) moves in, then the altitude of the peak increases. You’re effectively climbing a 15er or higher. That’s what your body feels,” Tomer explained.

Tomer said that if you are flying on a plane, the cabin is pressurized with increased air pressure to decrease the relative altitude for passengers.


According to Merriam-Webster, altitude is the vertical distance above the surface of the earth or above sea level.

“Altitude is related to air pressure. In fact, aviators and mountaineers can measure their altitude by measuring the air pressure around them. This is called indicated altitude, and is measured by an instrument called an altimeter. As altitude rises, air pressure drops. In other words, if the indicated altitude is high, the air pressure is low,” National Geographic explained.


Simply put, elevation is the distance above sea level. Denver’s elevation is 5,280 feet. If you are in another state, like Kansas, the elevation would be different. Different areas are located at different distances above sea level.

The elevation of Topeka, Kansas is 948 feet. The elevation of Tallahassee, Florida is 203 feet.