Altitude

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Chart lining up Y-coordinate values (left) to block layers (right).

Altitude is a measurement of vertical distance, or distance along the Y-axis.

Definition[edit | edit source]

Altitude is defined as "the height of anything above a given planetary reference plane, especially above sea level on earth."[1]

In Minecraft, altitude is commonly expressed as the number of block layers above the bottom of the game environment, which is layer zero (0). For instance, sea level is recognized as block layer 62, and clouds appear at layer 127.

Altitude may also be expressed as the bottom face of the block layer, the bottom most of which is at Y-coordinate 0, or Y=0. Sea level would appear at Y=63, and cloud level would appear at Y=128. The player can press F3 to see the Y-coordinate of the top face of the block on which they are standing, and the Y-coordinate of their eyes, which are located about 1.6 blocks above their feet. For example, a player standing at sea level will see the Y-coordinate of their eyes as approximately 64.6.

Limits[edit | edit source]

The maximum height.

The top of the game environment is layer 255, and the top face of the highest block that can be placed is at Y=256. In Pocket Edition, this limit is half, at layer 127 (Y=128), due to limits in the processing power of mobile devices. Attempting to build above this limit will cause the game to display this message: Height limit for building is 128.

The maximum height a player can possibly reach is Y=2,147,483,647, which is the largest value of a signed integer on a 32-bit system. Beyond this limit, the game may become unresponsive or even crash. The highest achievable height in Console Edition is y=511 due to an invisible wall.

In contrast, any player who falls below the altitude of Y=-60 will receive 4 (Heart.svgHeart.svg) damage every half second and eventually die, even in Creative mode. However, if a player is made invincible, they will continue to fall well beyond this limit.

Natural resources and altitude[edit | edit source]


This section needs updating. Description: The graphs in this section need to be updated to the current version.

Features in the landscape of the Overworld are found at different altitudes, as shown in the graph below. There is also an interactive chart.

Block layers overworld 1.5.svg

Note that these charts utilize the logarithmic scale, which means a slight difference in the Y-coordinate represents a large change in the relative frequency of a block type.

Some observations:

  • Looking at water, the amount at layer 62 (sea level) is obvious. Moving down, the amount quickly decreases at layers 56 and 48, the usual depth of river and ocean biomes, respectively.
    • There are corresponding peaks in the amount of clay beneath them.
  • Between layers 33 and 12, most water is falling down sub-ocean ravines, spreading out on the lava-filled bottom at layer 10 and producing most of the naturally-occurring obsidian.
  • Ores and gravel (not shown) usually occur as a fixed percentage of the amount of stone (also not shown), tapering off at the ends of their allowed generation range.
    • This is why coal and iron follow parallel tracks between layers 5 and 60.
    • The one exception is lapis lazuli ore, which has a linear progression up to a peak at layers 13-14.

See the following table for a textual description of resources by altitude and tools needed to gather them.

Landscape feature Complete layer range[note 1] Most common layers[note 2] Tool needed to obtain

Coal ore
0-114 5-66
Wooden pickaxe
or better

Gravel
1-115 5-56 None

Dirt


Grass block


Mycelium
0-126 5-80 None

Sand
2-112 43-63 None

Water
1-111 48-62
Bucket

Iron ore
0-63 2-58
Stone pickaxe
or better

Gold ore
0-31 4-29
Iron pickaxe
or better

Lapis lazuli ore
0-30 11-17
Stone pickaxe
or better

Lava
0-85 4-10
Bucket

Emerald ore
4-32 4-29
Iron pickaxe
or better

Diamond ore
0-15 4-13
Iron pickaxe
or better

Redstone ore
[note 3]
0-15 4-13
Iron pickaxe
or better

Bedrock
0-4 0-2 Only breakable in Creative mode
  1. The range in which the block can be found in the map used for the graph.
  2. Layers in which the resources tend to be most numerous.
  3. Redstone has the same layer and line-size statistics as Diamond, but is generated 8 times per chunk as opposed to 1.

Other naturally occurring features appear at different altitudes, but all of these features are random and will only appear in conjunction with another block and the proper environment.

Landscape feature Requires

Grass
Dirt/grass and light

Sugar cane
Dirt/grass/sand and water

Wood
Dirt and light

Cactus
Sand

Flowers
Dirt and light

Mushrooms
Dry land and darkness

Clay
Sand

Obsidian
Lava source and water

Cobblestone
Lava and water, dungeons and jungle temples

Moss stone
Dungeons, jungle temples, and mega taiga forests

The Nether[edit | edit source]

A similar graph, showing the distribution of blocks unique to the Nether:

Block layers nether 1.5.svg

Landscape feature Complete layer range Most common layers Implement needed to obtain

Netherrack
Layers 1-126 Layers 4-123
Wooden pickaxe
or better

Soul sand
Layers 14-81 Layers 58-64 None

Glowstone
Layers 2-120 Layers 98-106 None

Nether brick
Layers 19-86 Layers 48-66
Wooden pickaxe
or better

Nether quartz ore
Layers 7-117 Layers 9-115
Wooden pickaxe
or better

Video[edit | edit source]

History[edit | edit source]

Classic
? The altitude of the map was 64 blocks total. Players could build 32 blocks up or down from sea level.
Alpha
? Solid blocks can be placed from layer 0 to layer 127.
Beta
1.6 Solid blocks can no longer be placed on layer 127. However, beds, signs, torches and other non-solid blocks can be placed on layer 127.
Entities are no longer invisible when above the build limit; instead, they turned black.
July 19, 2011 Notch, on his Twitter feed before the Adventure Update, posted a picture showing his experimentation with height limits and terrain generation up to 512, featuring a mountain much higher than normal mountains.
1.8 The player's view distance decreases in lower altitudes.
Entities are no longer black when above the build limit.
Previously, the sea level was at layer 63. Now, it is at layer 62. Players who have maps created before this update will find one-block-high "waterfalls" at the edges of the terrain previously generated when moving into new, post-Beta 1.8 terrain.
Official release
1.2.1 12w07a The height limit was doubled from 127 to 255, though structures did not yet generate above this layer.
The change in height was introduced along with the switch from the Region file format to the new Anvil file format.
1.7.2 13w36a Amplified world type added (attempts to use the full 255 height).
1.11 16w32a The height limit message will now appear on top of the hotbar, the place that the message "Press **** to dismount" will also appear when you're riding a mob.

Issues[edit | edit source]

Issues relating to “Altitude” are maintained on the issue tracker. Report issues there.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • The highest possible altitude the player can legitimately climb to is Y=257 (via the door "glitch" + jumping), although explosions can blast the player far beyond this limit.
  • Although blocks cannot normally be placed past Y=254, there are several exceptions:
    • Beds, along with other non-solid blocks (signs, torches) can be placed on the 255th layer. Also, if a door is placed 1 layer below the top of the map, its upper frame will pass the 254th mark.
    • By placing a water source block on layer 255 using a water bucket on a solid block on layer 254, then placing a lava source block on the water using a lava bucket, both cobblestone and obsidian can be created on layer 255. The opposite (placing water on lava) works as well.
    • Placing a rail, flat snow, etc. block on the 255th layer, then trying to place a block on it will give you the message: Height limit for building is 256. This also applies when trying to place a block on top of a solid block at layer 255 (using MCEdit, or water and lava).
  • In The Nether, mushrooms can spawn on the 129th layer, above the bedrock.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Dictionary.com Unabridged, "altitude", accessed April 10, 2016