Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Acronyms, Wikipedia.
contour or contour line, line on a topographic map connecting points of equal elevation above or below mean sea level. It is thus a kind of isopleth, or line of equal quantity. Contour lines are drawn on maps with a uniform interval of vertical distance separating them (usually 10, 20, 50, or 100 ft on American maps) and thus outline the landform configuration, or relief. They may be visualized as representing shorelines if sea level were raised in small increments. Thus the tops of hills, which would appear as separate islands, are shown as a series of closed circular contours; valleys, which would appear as elongate bays, are shown as contour lines converging toward a point at the head of the valley. Since on steep slopes there is little horizontal distance between points greatly different in height, contour lines indicating such terrain are close together; contour lines of gentle slopes are more widely separated. Maps employing contour lines are called contour, or relief, maps although they are popularly called topographic maps (see topography) in the United States. Certain conventions are employed on these maps to assist the user. Contours indicating land elevations are printed in brown with every fifth contour drawn thicker and labeled with its elevation; those indicating depths of bodies of water are printed in blue. Hachure lines, pointing downslope, are attached to contour lines in order to emphasize a depression with a steep gradient. In the past, contour maps were made from ground surveys. Today they are constructed from stereographic aerial photographs and orbiting satellites, which use radar to measure elevations for land or ocean relief maps. In an analogous way, contour lines are also commonly used to map properties other than elevation; meteorologists, for example, employ contour lines, or isobars, to delineate areas of equal barometric pressures.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
CONTOUR(kon -toor) A NASA mission to be launched in July 2002 to study at least three comets: Encke (2003), Schwassmann–Wachmann-3 (2006), and d'Arrest (2008). The mission is designed so that it could be retargeted to intercept other unforseen comets.
Collins Dictionary of Astronomy © Market House Books Ltd, 2006
A curve drawn up on a two-dimensional diagram through points which satisfy f (x,y) = c, where c is a constant and f is some function, such as the field strength for a transmitter.
(science and technology)
The periphery of a figure or body.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
i. Lines on a map joining places of equal height above a selected datum level. They are drawn at a suitable interval, and the greater the bunching, the steeper the slope. The highest point is shown as a spot height.
ii. A line on a radarscope that shows the areas of equal radar echo intensity.
An Illustrated Dictionary of Aviation Copyright © 2005 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved