Maps and Their Many Flavors
Maps are "diagrammatic representations of an area of land or sea showing physical features, cities, roads, etc."1 In addition, maps can detail the spatial arrangement/distribution of a subject (ex. crime, water level, etc.) over a physical area (Jackson County, Walla Walla, etc.).
Maps come in many different varieties and serve different purposes. Below are some of the most common types of maps.
Maps focused on the composition, structure, and distribution of earth materials. Geologic maps may depict bedrock formation, surficial units (deposited sediment), mineral resources, and structural hazards (faultlines, volcanoes, etc.).
Maps that depict water resources information. This information may include the position and characteristics of bodies of water (lakes, rivers, streams), water temperature, floods/flood areas, drainage areas, water availability, and aquifer information.
Maps that are made up of aerial photographic images. There are several types of photoimage maps and the amount of relief indicated varies from area to area as well as from type to type of photoimage map. Satellite image maps are a type of photoimage map.
These maps utilize contour lines to illustrate the elevation and shape of land. Topographic maps (frequently called "topos") often depict both natural and manmade features including mountains, valleys, plains, lakes, rivers, roads, boundaries, transmission lines, and major buildings.1
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has created the best known topographic maps. These maps are the 1:24,000-scale topographic maps, also known as 7.5-minute quadrangles. The USGS also created smaller scale maps covering larger areas of the United States. These are the 1:100,000 and 1:250,000 scale maps.
Maps that illustrate both surface contours and underwater contours (or depth contours, a.k.a. isobaths, a.k.a. bathymetric contours). The form of the land both above and below any water surface is portrayed within one map instead of two. Bathymetric maps may also show magnetic and gravity data.
1map. (2005). In The Oxford Dictionary of English.
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USGS information regarding map types can be found here: