We use a lot of different types of maps here at the SouthCoast Energy Challenge! Maps are an everyday occurrence when wanting to know about energy, climate, air, and the health of the environment. They use pictures, lines, and all sorts of crazy things to keep your attention! Well, there are different types of maps for very different reasons, as you well know. Maps usually fall into one of the two different categories: Reference Map or Thematic Map. These categories are not a specific map, but are a broad range of specific maps within them.


are the ones that help guide you to a certain destination on the earth’s surface. This includes the all too familiar mapquest and googlemaps. All you have to do is type in the place you are and then your destination. Then it uses street names to get you from one place to the other. Highway maps and even your car’s GPS fall into this category as well. There is something called a map scale that they use to show you the distance on a map and the distance in the real world. There are large, medium, and small scales. Large scale maps show you the greatest amount of detail: down to every street name. It could be shown like this: 1:24000. Medium scale maps (1:62500) shows highways and town names, but not much else. Small scale maps (1:250,000) show the least details, although they show the greatest land area.


are just about every other type of map you can find. These maps can tell you the geographic range or place, magnitude, density, spatial relationships, movements, quantity, frequency, and more. In a geographic location topographic maps could use colors, contour lines, circles, natural aspects, cultural phenomena, and even dots to determine different things. Climate and Soil maps are perfect examples. There are others such as Choropleth maps that use colors to depict a range “in quantity, density, percent, etc.” (Ritter): and dasymetric maps that uses colors to unite areas to show a geographic pattern on the map.

Circle Maps use differently sized circles to show geographic information. A great example is one that shows you natural disaster damage, like where an earthquake hit and how far out it was felt. Dot maps are great for showing how much or how little there is of something in a geographic location. The dot is just a unit of measurement. One tiny dot could be 100,000 people or 50,000 acres of land! Topographic maps are the maps that our teachers had us look at in school. They have the little pictures demonstrating a different aspect inside the location. There could be pictures of vehicles, food, buildings, types of water, and more. The United States Geological Survey goes in depth in showing what all the symbols mean.


I hoped this helped on your journey of map knowledge. If you want some more information here are some pretty cool sites:

How Stuff Works

National Geographic

My Reference:

The Physical Environment

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