Interactive elevation profile basics

The interactive Elevation Profile tool generates a graph of height values along a linear path in the view. The profile is calculated using the ground elevation surface in a map (2D) or a scene (3D), and unlike other exploratory analysis tools, the values are derived from the data sources for the elevation surface rather than the view's level of detail.

The tool requires a line to generate the elevation profile. You can either interactively create the line by placing vertices on the fly, or by choosing a line feature already in the map. The resultant profile graph is generated and added as an overlay window at the base of the map or scene.

Characteristics of the profile window include the following:

  • The width of the profile window is defined by the width of the active view.
  • The height of the profile window can be adjusted interactively.
  • The resolution of the graph—that is, the number of samples along the line where height values have been calculated—is driven by the display width of the graph in the view.
  • You can move the pointer over the profile graph for feedback where the elevation information appears in the graph and a corresponding positional graphic appears on the map.
  • The base of the profile window includes statistical information about the elevation and slope of the profile line.
  • You can reverse the direction of the profile.
  • You can save the profile to an image.

An interactive elevation profile graph created in a 2D map.

The interactive elevation profile tool is not available if the map does not contain a ground elevation surface. You can add an elevation surface to a map by clicking the Add Data drop-down menu on the Map tab, and selecting Elevation Source Add Elevation Source. Browse to an elevation source, such as a DEM raster file you have saved on disk, or use an elevation service layer hosted on ArcGIS Living Atlas. For example, in the Search Living Atlas text box on the Add Elevation Source dialog box, type TopoBathy 3D.

The profile graph displayed in the view is temporary and is not saved with the project, nor is it included in map packages. However, it can be exported to an image file for further use, such as an element on a layout or report. If you require the profile graph's elevation line as z-aware feature data, consider using the Interpolate Shape geoprocessing tool instead.

Create an interactive elevation profile

The interactive Elevation Profile tool Elevation Profile is located in the Exploratory 3D Analysis drop-down menu in the Workflows group on the Analysis tab. When you select the tool from the drop-down menu, it opens the Exploratory Analysis pane and activates the tool with the Interactive Placement creation method. The pointer updates to a crosshairs icon.

Creation parameter

An interactive profile graph creation parameter is described in the following table:


Distance Units

The linear unit used to label the axes of the profile graph.

Creation methods

There are two methods for creating an interactive profile graph:


Interactive Placement Elevation Profile Interactive Line

Click in the view to digitize a linear path, and double-click to finish. This is the default method.

From Layer Elevation Profile From Layer

Generate a profile graph from a selected set of connected line features. When multiple lines are selected, the tool will attempt to collapse them into a single continuous line. If there are disconnected segments, the tool will arbitrarily choose one of the segments for the graph.

Update a profile graph

Once a profile graph has been created, you can update it in the following ways:

  • Change the profile path by dragging individual vertices within the map or scene.
  • Flip the direction of the graph in the Elevation Profile window by clicking the Reverse Direction button Reverse Direction.
  • Change the units used to label the axis of an existing profile graph by changing the Distance Units property on the Create tab of the Exploratory Analysis pane.

Save a profile graph to an image

Once an elevation profile graph has been created, click the Export Graph button Export Graph on the Elevation Profile window. On the Export Graph dialog box, set the destination to save the image file and provide a name. You can save the image as a JPG (.jpg), TIF (.tif), PNG (.png) or BMP (.bmp).

Close an interactive profile graph

Click Close Close in the profile graph window to remove it from the view. The pointer switches back to the Explore tool, but the Exploratory Analysis pane remains open should you need to perform a new elevation profile.

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