Determining paleoelevation, the past elevation of the Earth's surface, is a key problem facing Earth science. This is in part because it bears on and links together tectonics, climate, and geomorphological issues, and also in part because the prospect of reliable solutions to specific paleoelevation histories has now brought the problem to the verge of being tractable.

The geodynamic evolution of large-scale mountain belts and plateaus such as Tibet, the Altiplano (in Bolivia and Chile), or the interior of western North America has long been contested. Nevertheless, these areas have served as the focus for the development of fundamental tectonic models that attempt to elucidate lithospheric processes. Reconstruction of paleotopography and its influence on global atmospheric circulation is a critical element for reconstructing past climate and understanding the distribution of precipitation controlled by orographic barriers.