Using Maps to Organize Space

In years past, there were several common kinds of maps. There were political maps showing the boundaries of countries, states, counties, etc. There were road maps to help you travel across the country or to help you find a street in your town. There were wonderful three-dimensional maps to show the mountains. There were also topographical maps. There were weather maps and special hurricane maps,

In recent years, the ways we use maps to display data has multiplied.

As a bird watcher, I appreciate the great improvements in range maps for each species, showing where they are in various seasons.

I  look with amazement at the maps, or should I say photographs, taken from satellites and merged to form  a wonderful single image like this map from Google. This is our world. We might wonder what it will look like in the future with global warming.

This is a world map created with Satellite images

Speaking of Global Warming, there are maps to show what might happen as the ice melts and the ocean level rises. This map from the US Environmental Protection Agency  shows what is expected to happen to the coastline

Changes in sourtheast US if the water level rises with Global Warmingof the southeast US as global warming melts the ice caps and the water level rises.

This map shows only the early stages, as the water rises 1.5 meters (red) and 3.5 meters (blue). There is a map in our library that shows much more of the state of Florida under water.

This sort of visual display of information is more likely to motivate people to take action. Newspaper articles with data in written form would be ignored by most readers.

Another interesting map, from the US Geological Survey, shows This map shows levels of acid rain across the US.the acidity of rain across the United States.

It is surprising and shocking to see how much more acid the rain is in the Eastern half of the country.

Another interesting map is a result of studying mitochondrial DNA. It shows the apparent paths our early ancestors took as they left Africa and spread around the world.

A Map shows pathways of early man moving out from AfricaAt election time we study the wonderful maps of red and blue states or even counties. Just imagine all the data that was collected and organized in a single map. Think how many pages you would need to display this data if you didn’t use a map.

Red and Blue Election map based on populationThis is map by MEJ Newman, is of a series of election maps  from the 2008 presidential elections. The first map, by counties, was almost entirely red. It looked like a Republican victory for sure, until you realize that is rural countries with small populations, you find more Republicans.

When the data was organized by state, there was still more red than blue, but it was closer to being equal. The Democrats had a chance of winning.

This wonderful map to the right, shows the US map distorted so there is an area proportional to the population. How can this be? Now there’s a lot more blue. The answer is simple. The Democrats are often found in large numbers in small areas, in and around large cities. By areas, the map is nearly all red. By population, it is mostly blue.

This teaches us that data shown on a map can be misleading if we aren’t careful.

This map of the word shows land area







The next set of 3 maps come from worldmapper .org  These distorted maps are sometimes called cartograms.

I include three to show the comparison.  The first map shows area.  Notice that Canada and Alaska seem much smaller. That’s because the maps we usually see don’t display area.

This map is distorted to show population







The second map shows population. Now Alaska and Canada are even smaller. North and South America are smaller. India has grown immensely and China is also very large. You might also wonder what happened to Australia.

The third map shows poverty. The United States has almost gone.

The size of India is now still larger. China has changed it shape but there’s not much change in size.

Look at Japan, small in area, much higher in population, but tiny in the third map as they have very little poverty.

I find it interesting that some African countries have grown far more than others showing that some counties in Africa have much greater problems with poverty.

Here are links to some other interesting maps:  Tectonic plates and volcanoes  USGS Maps

Asteroid Impact Sites, and Google Earth: Asteroid Impact

The Human Toll of Climate Change: zoom out to see the world. Zoom in to see your areas. Click for details. Read the explanation following the map

Think about ways you might use a map, possibly on a more local scale, to display data.

The next page shows a way to create simplified maps. I find them helpful for learning the location of the countries in a continent or the sections of a country, etc.    Simplified Maps

You might also continue to Cause and Effect  or to  Webbing Relationships

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