Physical Environment

Topics: Cartography, Latitude, Topographic map Pages: 28 (6260 words) Published: June 14, 2013



One of the important dimensions of social knowledge is being able to locate yourself in time

and space answering the questions when and where. Locating yourself in time requires an

understanding of the concepts of days, hours, second, years, months, weeks and even

centuries. Similarly locating yourself in space requires an understanding of the concepts of

distance, maps, and directions. Location in physical space is probably the first step in

understanding your physical environment. This unit is going to focus on Map reading and

other related concepts that help us to locate ourselves in physical space.

A map is a graphic representation of a portion of the earth's surface drawn to scale, as seen

from above. It uses colors, symbols, and labels to represent features found on the ground.

The ideal representation would be realized if every feature of the area being mapped could

be shown in true shape.

Obviously this is impossible, and an attempt to plot each feature true to scale would result

in a product impossible to read even with the aid of a magnifying glass. A map is a

representation of a geographic area, usually a portion of the earth's surface, drawn or printed

on a flat surface. In most instances a map is a diagrammatic rather than a pictorial

representation of the terrain; it usually contains a number of generally accepted symbols,

which indicate the various natural, artificial, or cultural, features of the area it covers.

Five concepts are going to be explored in this unit to assist you in appreciating the use of a

map and interpreting the information that is displayed on a map. These concepts are;

-Grid reference including lines of latitude and longitude

-Compass directions

-Using major physical features as reference points

-Representation of physical features on the map

-The main uses of a map.

At the end of the unit some self checking exercises which are typical exam questions are

given. One sample answer is also given to guide you for exam



This unit aims at;

a] Broadening the sense of time and space among student teachers.

b] Developing map reading skills among student teachers.

c] Encouraging an appreciation of the physical environment among student teachers.

d] Awakening a global perspective of the environment in student teachers.


By the end of this unit you should be able to;

a] Define a map

b] Explain grid reference as well as lines of latitude and longitude

c] Appreciate the importance of a compass

d] Illustrate the use of physical features as reference points for locating things in space.

e] Articulate the main uses of a map


Grid references define locations on maps using Cartesian coordinates. Grid lines on maps

define the coordinate system, and are numbered to provide a unique

reference to features. Grid references are a specification of a position on map. The reference is based on numbers or letters that specifies a position on a map or chart by referring to the superimposed grid. Grid systems vary, but the most common is a square grid with grid lines numbered sequentially from the origin at the bottom left of the map. The grid numbers on the east-west (horizontal) axis is called Eastings, and the grid numbers on the north-south (vertical) axis are called Northings. Numerical grid references consist of an even number of digits. Eastings are...

References: Carter, James R., 1972,  "Commentary on Mason 's 'Spatial Variability of Radioactivity in the United States," The Professional Geographer, Vol. 24, (Feb. 1972), 77-80.
Carter, James R., 1979,  "Two Maps--Many Images," Proceedings of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, 39th Annual Meeting, 1979, 153-159.
Carter, James R., 1988,  "The Map Reading Environment:  A Significant Factor in Cartographic Design,"  The American Cartographer,  Vol. 15, No. 4, Oct. 1988, 379-85.
Elzakker, C.P.J.M. van; A.W. Simon van Leeuwen & E. Massop, 2001, Investigations into the use of Dutch cycling maps and their results.  The Cartographic Journal, 38(1), pp. 41-47.
Go cheng Leong (1991), Certificate physical and Human Geography – Oxford
University Press, London, UK.
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