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Topographic Maps

Section 3 of Earth's Changing Surface
by

Christopher Landry

on 7 October 2013

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Transcript of Topographic Maps

Mapping Earth's
Topography Reading a Contour Map Topographic Maps A topographic map is a map showing the surface features of an area. Topographic maps use symbols to portray the land as if you were looking down on it from above. Topographic maps provide highly accurate information on the elevation, relief, and slope of the ground surface. Mapmakers use contour lines to represent elevation, relief, and slope on topographic maps. On topographic maps a contour line connects points of equal elevation. The change in elevation from contour line to contour line is called the contour interval. The contour interval for a given map is always the same. Usually, every fifth contour line, known as an index contour, is darker and heavier than the others. Index contours are labeled with the elevation above sea level in round units, such as 2,000 feet above sea level. How do mapmakers represent elevation, relief, and slope? To read a topographic map, you must familiarize yourself with the map's scale and symbols and interpret the map's contour lines. Topographic maps usually are large-scale maps. A large-scale map is one that shows a close-up view of part of Earth's surface. In the United States, most topographic maps are at a scale of 1:24,000, or 1 centimeter equals 0.24 kilometers. At this scale, a map can show the details of elevation and features such as rivers and coastlines. Large buildings, airports, and major highways appear as outlines at the correct scale. Symbols are used to show houses and other small features. On a topographic map, closely spaced contour lines indicate steep slopes. Widely spaced contour lines indicate gentle slopes. A contour line that forms a closed loop with no other contour lines inside it indicates a hilltop. A closed loop with dashes inside indicates a depression. V-shaped contour lines pointing downward indicate a ridge line. V-shaped contour lines pointing uphill indicate a valley. How do you read a topographic map? Uses of Topographic Maps What are some uses for topographic maps? Topographic maps have many uses in science and engineering, business, government, and everyday life. Topographic maps have many uses in science and engineering, business, government, and everyday life. Topographic maps have many uses in science and engineering, business, government, and everyday life. Suppose that you are an engineer planning a route for a highway over a mountain pass. Your design for the highways needs to solver several problems. Suppose that you are an engineer planning a route for a highway over a mountain pass. Your design for the highways needs to solver several problems. To design a safe highway, you need a route that avoids the steepest slopes. To protect the area's water supply, the highway must stay a certain distance from rivers and lakes. Businesses use topographic maps to help decide where to build new stores, housing, or factories. Topographic maps have recreational use as well. Hikers often use topographic maps to help them understand their hiking route.
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