# Lab 1: Getting to Know the Earth s Surface through Maps

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1 Lab 1: Getting to Know the Earth s Surface through Maps A big part of geoscience is the presentation of information about the characteristics of the Earth s surface; the elevation, the underlying geologic materials, the hydrologic features, and geophysical attributes such as the gravity and magnetism. Because of this, it is important to develop a few basic map-reading skills these will serve you well through the rest of the semester. But first, we need to review a few basic things about the whole Earth, this quasi-spherical planet on which we live. The Shape of the Earth The Earth is, of course, roughly a sphere. The average radius is 6371 km, but it differs from 6356 km along the poles to 6378 km along the equator. This means that the circumference is roughly 40,000 km and the surface area is 510,000,000 km 2. Humans have superimposed on this sphere a set of latitude and longitude lines to help describe different places on the surface. Latitude lines run east-west and go from 0 at the equator to 90 N and 90 S; longitude lines all pass through the two poles and go from 0 (the prime meridian, passing through Greenwich, England) to 180 E and 180 W (alternatively, longitude runs from 0 to 360 in a CCW fashion looking down from the north pole). Both latitude and longitude are subdivided into units of minutes (60 per degree) and seconds (60 per minute). This spherical surface is depicted best in the form of a globe, but the difficulties of printing onto a sphere have led people to develop a range of different strategies for projecting parts of this sphere onto planar sheets of paper. Some of these projections preserve (i.e., do not distort) area, others preserve angles; a full rundown on various map projections can be found at the US Geological survey web page (google map projections USGS). The highest point is Mt. Everest, at 8850 m and the lowest point is in the Marianas Trench at -10,924 m. This total range of almost 20 km, over the circumference of the Earth of 40,000 km makes the Earth comparatively smoother than an orange, so even though on a local, human scale, the topography can seem impressive, on a global scale it is pretty minor. The reasons why the relief is so minimal have a lot to do with a very active hydrologic cycle on Earth, with rain and glaciers constantly wearing away at the high spots. Looking more closely at the global elevation, a rather startling fact appears; elevation on our planet is bimodal there are two main peaks rather than just one on a histogram. Why is this distribution of elevations bimodal? To most geoscientists, this suggests that there are two fundamentally different kinds of crust on our planet. This in turn suggests two main processes for forming crust. Later, we will look at similar plots for other planets as a way of understanding some basic things about those planets.

4 5. Draw the boundaries of the watershed for the small stream located to the north of the airport, indicated by the arrow in the figure below. draw the watershed boundary for this stream 6. The map below shows one of the parking lots around the stadium (X marks the spot). The parking lot is a place where a variety of pollutants can be concentrated; when it rains, these pollutants follow a pathway that is governed by the topography. Draw the flow path of water leaving the parking lot. X

5 7. Construct a topographic profile along line A-A, passing through the Nittany Mountain ridge. Take a strip of paper with a straight edge and lay it along the line (just to the right of the line); make a tick mark on the strip where each contour line intersectsthe line of profile, labeling each tick mark with the appropriate elevation. Move the strip of paper to the top of the grid and without moving it around, make a dot in the grid below each tick mark (on the grid, the right side is up, the bottom is down, the top is NW and the botttom is SE and the vertical lines are labelled according to elevation). Then connect the dots to make the topographic profile and then check the result by studying the map to make sure ridges and valleys are in the right places. We ll use this profile later on to draw the subsurface geology based on our field studies of rocks exposed at the surface. Note that here, we use a 5x vertical exaggeration the vertical scale is 1 = 400 rather than 1 =2000. A A A A

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