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Uses of a Clinometer

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The clinometer is a versatile and exacting instrument used by many professions that makes streets and sidewalks safer, keeps buildings from sliding off hillsides and provides formulas for building stabilized bridges crossing expanses of water and deep ravines. This remarkable instrument determines heights of mountains, measures the true distance of a horizon and calculates the grade of an incline. All of these are necessary for surveying, building cities and skyscrapers and mapping the world, the moon and even our closest planets.

Geologists and Surveyors

Use of the clinometer with a specific mathematical formula--height x distance x angle--assists geologists to assess the height of a tree or a mountain. Surveyors, on the other hand, use this multipurpose instrument for measuring angles in reference to gravity. This provides important details of road building for the grade of a slope for use by vehicles. Surveyors also use clinometers to mark mining claims.

Winter Hikers and Skiers

Using the clinometer, winter hikers and skiers make certain their activities are safe. This instrument reveals the angle of a snow-covered slope, information that can be used to avoid the risk of an avalanche. Higher incidence of the life-threatening landslides occur at 25- and 45-degree angles.


Before the invention of satellite weather monitors for seafaring vessels, sailors more commonly depended on the clinometer to warn them of dangerous storms. Using a sight clinometer, a seaman calculated the height of clouds, which can determine if inclement weather is brewing in the atmosphere.

City Planners

Assessing road safety, appropriate runoff for streets and sidewalks as well as accessibility for pedestrians with special needs makes the clinometer a valuable tool for city planners. The quality of life of city dwelling depends in part on roads and pedestrian pathways having the appropriate slope.


Engineers designing bridges and structures use the inclinometer (another type of clinometer) for measuring the incline of the land. By incorporating this important feature of design, the engineer has more diversity for assuring a structural plan in harmony with the land.


Catalina Bixler's journalism career began in 1970. After five years as a publishing teacher, Bixler then published/edited NATO's U.S. 5th Army and 17th AF "Wiesbaden Post" newspaper. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in bilingual-journalism/community development from Redlands University, and a Master of Arts in adult education/training from the University of Phoenix.

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