Lesson 2 Types of Maps

Grade 9 Academic Geography – Strand 1 Maps
Types of Maps
In geography, maps are an important tool. Maps are used to examine the features of the Earth (natural or
anthropogenic). In simple terms, maps are pictures of the Earth's surface.
Maps show many things. They can be (1) general reference showing landforms, political boundaries, water, the
locations of cities, etc., or (2) thematic maps showing specific features such as the average rainfall distribution,
population density, distribution of a certain disease, etc.
With computers, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) produce and update maps in almost real time, and allow
you and I to track and interpret change more readily.
Table 1. List of Some Map Types
Map Type
Bathymetric Navigational
Shows the relief of the sea floor/lake floor
Show the nature of the coasts, depth of water, etc.
Shows boundaries of landed properties, fields, buildings etc.
Prepared by governments for revenue purposes
Shows information about the climate of an area generally based on temperature,
precipitation or average number of cloudy days
Normally use colours to show different climatic areas
Economic or
Shows a specific type of economic activity or natural resources present in an area
Uses different symbols or colours to represent different economic or resource
Example – Different agricultural products produced in Ontario with letters for
natural resources and symbols for different industries
Show the rock formations, plus rock ages and structures, mineral resources, etc.
Shows the Earth’s physical features, their relationship with land, water etc.
Offers some conventional pictorial symbols to show relief, landforms etc.
Does not show any topographic features
Shows political boundaries of a place
Shows locations of cities - both large and small, depending on the detail (i.e., scale)
of the map.
Example – Map of Canada showing the ten provinces and three territories, capital
cities, major cities and international borders
Shows physical landscape features of a place such as mountains, rivers and lakes
Water is always shown with blue. Mountains and elevation changes are usually
shown with different colours and shades to show relief. Normally on physical maps,
green shows lower elevations while browns show high elevations.
Shows major and minor highways, roads, plus features such as airports, city
locations, and points of interest like hospitals, parks, campgrounds and monuments.
Illustrates a particular theme or special topic
Different from other map types because they show themes in addition to natural
features (e.g., rivers, cities, political subdivisions, elevation) which provide reference
Example -- Population change of Canada in specific locations from 1996 to 2001
Shows different physical landscape features except they use contour lines instead of
colours to show changes in elevation
Contour lines on topographic maps are normally spaced at regular intervals to show
elevation changes (e.g. each line represents a 30 m elevation change) and when lines
are close together the terrain is steep
Map Scale
The scale of a map can be expressed as a RATIO (1:25 000), a STATEMENT (e.g., one centimetre equals 63
kilometres) or as a DIVIDED LINE SCALE noted in kilometres.
Large-Scale Map
 A large-scale map could have a scale of 1:25 000 – the map shows one kilometre of the Earth’s surface in
four centimetres OR the distance on the map is ONLY 25,000 X smaller than the actual distance it
represents. Note: a great amount of detail can be shown on a large-scale map because it depicts only a
small portion of the earth’s surface.
Small-Scale Maps
 A small-scale map shows almost 30 000 000 km2 on the Earth’s surface inside a square with sides
measuring only seven centimetres each. The scale for this map is 1:75 000 000. This is considered a
SMALL-SCALE MAP because the distance on the map is 75 000 000 X smaller than the actual distance it
represents. There is not much detail on a small-scale map.
 Small-scale maps are associated with HIGH numbers AFTER the colon (e.g., 1:1 000 000 and 1:16 000 000).
To calculate scale as a ratio –
1. We have a map with a scale of 1:50 000. We measure the distance along a property boundary as 1.7 cm.
What is the length in the real world?
0.85 km
Map Scale = 1 50 000
Map Distance (MD) = 1.7 cm
Actual Ground Distance (GD) = ?
Map Scale = MD / GD
If a distance of four centimetres on a map represents a distance of one kilometre on the ground, how many
times longer is the kilometre than the four centimetres?
A particular map shows a scale of 1:500 000. What would the map distance (in cm) be if the actual distance is
14 km?
Ground Distance = 8.546 km and Map Distance = 36.5 cm. What is the scale?
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