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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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Full Answer

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 physical map?

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    The main objective of a physical map is to show landforms, bodies of water and other geographical features. Features shown include mountains, deserts and lowlands as well as lakes, rivers and oceans.

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    What is a map scale?

    A:

    A map scale shows the relationship between the distance on the ground and the corresponding distance on a specific map. Most scales appear on the bottom or top corner of a map.

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