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Unit 1

1.1 Introduction to Maps and Types of Maps

2 min readโ€ขjune 1, 2020

Sana Fatah


Early Maps vs Contemporary Maps

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Map Scale and Projection

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 theyโ€™re representing? Thatโ€™s where scaling comes into play.ย 

A map scale presents the mapโ€™s features in relation to the actual size on the Earth. The three most common forms are:

  1. Ratioย 

    1. 1 : 25,000

    2. The number on the left of the ratio is always the units of distance on the map

    3. The number on the right is always the unit of distance on Earthโ€™s surface

    4. Every 1 inch on this map represents 25,000 actual inches on Earthโ€™s surface.ย 

  2. Written scale

    1. โ€œ1 inch equals 1 mileโ€

    2. Explains the relationship in words

  3. Graphic Scale

    1. There is a bar line marked on the map to show how much actual distance is covered

    https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2Funnamed.png?alt=media&token=076980f9-ce4a-4502-929f-6ef0893aaa0b

    Okay, so thereโ€™s a good reason why maps arenโ€™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?ย 

    Letโ€™s talk about projections.

    • Projection: transferring locations on Earthโ€™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:

    1. The shape of an area can be distorted

    2. Distance between two areas is inaccurate

    3. The relative size of different areas is inaccurate

    4. Direction can be distorted

    Two Types of Projections:

    Robinson projection

    + used to focus on oceans

    - land masses are smaller

Image Courtesy of The Guardian

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Mercator projection

+ Accurate shape and direction

+ Map is rectangularย 

- Size of poles are distorted

https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2Fpasted%20image%200-2.png?alt=media&token=d55a7ffa-e704-42b9-a44b-9acacca12c52

Geographic Grid

There are imaginary grid patterns drawn on Earthโ€™s surfaces that tell us specific locations.ย 

  • Parallel: arcs in circles around the LAP of the earth

    • Location of parallels is indicated by latitudeย 

  • LATitude โ†’ LAT=LAP= horizontal

    • Your LAP is horizontal. So latitude is horizontal.ย 

  • Meridian: arcs drawn from the North pole to the South poleย 

    • Location of meridians is indicated by longitudeย 

  • LONGitude โ†’ LONG= up and down

    • If something is long, it is vertical. So longitude is vertical.ย 

Latitude and longitude are used together and give us a specific coordinate and location.ย 

๐ŸŽฅ Watch: AP HUG - Maps, Maps, Maps

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