Have you ever seen a map the size of America? Or the size of the world? No? Then how are maps accurate if they are not the same size as the area they’re representing? That’s where scaling comes into play.
A map scale presents the map’s features in relation to the actual size on the Earth. The three most common forms are:
1 : 25,000
The number on the left of the ratio is always the units of distance on the map
The number on the right is always the unit of distance on Earth’s surface
Every 1 inch on this map represents 25,000 actual inches on Earth’s surface.
“1 inch equals 1 mile”
Explains the relationship in words
There is a bar line marked on the map to show how much actual distance is covered
Okay, so there’s a good reason why maps aren’t as big as the actual area they are depicting. But how does a flat, 2D map on a piece of paper accurately represent our spherical Earth?
Let’s talk about projections.
Projection: transferring locations on Earth’s surface to a flat map
Depending on what the cartographer wants to focus on, they have these four choices to make sure the globe fits on a paper:
The shape of an area can be distorted
Distance between two areas is inaccurate
The relative size of different areas is inaccurate
Direction can be distorted
+ used to focus on oceans
- land masses are smaller
Image Courtesy of The Guardian
+ Accurate shape and direction
+ Map is rectangular
- Size of poles are distorted
There are imaginary grid patterns drawn on Earth’s surfaces that tell us specific locations.
Parallel: arcs in circles around the LAP of the earth
Location of parallels is indicated by latitude
LATitude → LAT=LAP= horizontal
Your LAP is horizontal. So latitude is horizontal.
Meridian: arcs drawn from the North pole to the South pole
Location of meridians is indicated by longitude
LONGitude → LONG= up and down
If something is long, it is vertical. So longitude is vertical.
Latitude and longitude are used together and give us a specific coordinate and location.
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