Elevation source layers

An elevation source layer references the data that contributes height values to the elevation surface layer. An elevation surface layer can have more than one elevation source layer, and you can combine different types. Local elevation source layers can be a single-band raster that contains elevation information or a TIN dataset. You can also use an elevation image service as an elevation source or as a portal web elevation layer. You can find elevation layers on ArcGIS Online by searching for the keyword elevation. If you use custom image services, define elevation as the service type.

An elevation source layer is not visible in a 3D scene, but you can view a basemap layer draped on top of the elevation source layer in a scene. Operational layers can be draped on the elevation surface layer when in the 2D Layers category and placed on the ground, at an absolute height or at a relative height when in the 3D Layers category. When a 3D scene doesn't have an elevation source layer, the scene is rendered as a plane displayed at zero height (sea level).


You cannot add the same elevation source to a scene if it is already present in the elevation surface.

The order of elevation sources in the elevation surface determines the order in which they are used, so place the data source with the highest resolution highest in the elevation source order in the Contents pane. When you navigate to an area of the map or scene that is outside the extent of the first (highest-resolution) elevation source, the next elevation source in the list is used, and so on.

Default Terrain 3D

When connected to ArcGIS Online, every new local and global scene contains a default Terrain 3D elevation source layer. This layer is for serving elevation tiles only. It is not recommended for analysis operations or for use in geoprocessing tools. A dynamic image service, Terrain, is available for use in analysis workflows. For more information, see Use elevation source layers in analysis.

Supported elevation source layers

You can add the following supported datasets as an elevation source layer:

Supported elevation sourceData location

Raster dataset

File on disc

TIN dataset

File on disc

Web elevation layer

Portal item

Web imagery layer

Portal item

Cached elevation image service

ArcGIS Server service

Web coverage service

ArcGIS Server service

Elevation source layer properties

Properties for an elevation source are available on the Elevation Source Properties dialog box.

In the Contents pane of a scene, right-click the elevation source and click Properties. The options are as follows:

  • General—Specify the layer name.
  • Source—View the spatial reference of the data. You can view and change the source of the data on this tab. If you change the source, you must choose the same data type as the original dataset.

Adjust the vertical units

Raster data may have a projected coordinate system in meters, but the pixel values are in feet. Use the Vertical Units Override setting on the Source page to adjust the vertical units of the elevation source. This setting is only honored in ArcGIS Pro and is not honored when sharing a web scene. To correct the pixel values, use the Times tool.


Vertical Units Override is unavailable when a vertical coordinate system is set on the dataset.

Share an elevation source layer to a portal

A raster-based elevation source layer can be shared as a web elevation layer to ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise. See Share a web elevation layer for detailed steps.