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What is a topographical map?

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Quick Answer

A topographic map is a highly detailed illustration that shows all the relief features of the Earth's surface in three dimensions. In topographic maps, contour lines are employed to show the changes in elevation on the surface of the Earth.

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What is a topographical map?
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Topographic maps, also known as topo maps, are usually drawn on a large scale and are produced on very large sheets of paper. It is a very detailed and accurate representation of the natural and cultural features on the ground. A topo map identifies natural and cultural features, such as roads, rivers, swamps, vegetation and power transmission, among other features.


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  • Q:

    What is a contour interval on a topographical map?

    A:

    The space between contour lines on a topographical map is a contour interval. The contour interval is an even space that represents an increase in elevation. For instance, if the map uses a 20-foot interval, there are contour lines at zero, 20, 40, 60, 80 and 100 feet.

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  • Q:

    What is a flat map?

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    A flat map is a projection of Earth's surface onto a two-dimensional plane, according to NationalAtlas.gov. Because Earth's surface curves, any projection onto a flat map creates distortions. A globe is the most accurate depiction of Earth, but impractical for most uses, whereas a flat rendering is useful but not as accurate. A flat map can be printed on paper or digitally rendered on a computer screen.

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    What is a generalized map?

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    Generalized maps are specifically designed to convey several types of information within the confines of one map. A generalized map usually includes details like topography and actual aesthetics of the portrayed area, producing a map that is closer to a mirrored image than a strict representation to scale.

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  • Q:

    What is a map projection?

    A:

    A map projection is a means of displaying a map of the Earth. Due to the fact that the planet is roughly spherical and three-dimensional, attempts to map it in two dimensions create distortions in direction, shape, area and distance.

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