What is a Topography? | Types, Definition, Structure, Function & Facts

What is Topography?

Topography describes the physical features of a land. These features often include natural formations such as mountains, rivers, lakes, and valleys. Man-made features such as roads, dams, and towns can also be included. Terrain often records the different elevations of an area using topographic maps.

Topographical Features

Topography studies the elevation and location of terrain.

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Landforms – Landforms is studied in terms of topography which can include anything that has a physical impact on the area. Examples include mountains, hills, valleys, lakes, oceans, rivers, cities, dams, and roads.

Elevation – The elevation or height of mountains and other objects recorded as part of the terrain. It is usually recorded with reference to sea level (the surface of the ocean).

Latitude – Latitude indicates the north/south position of a reference location from the equator. The equator is a horizontal line drawn around the middle of the Earth, an equal distance from the North and South Poles. The equator has a latitude of 0 degrees.

Longitude – Longitude indicates the east/west position of a location. Longitude is usually measured in degrees from the prime meridian. Topographic maps.

Topographical Map

A topographic map is a map that shows the physical features of the terrain. In addition to showing landforms such as mountains and rivers, the map also shows the elevation change of the terrain. Elevation is indicated by contour lines.

When a contour line is drawn on a map, it represents a certain elevation. Every point on the map that touches this line must be at the same height. On some maps, the numbers on the lines will tell you the elevation of the line.

Contour lines next to each other will represent different heights. The closer the contour lines are to each other, the steeper the slope of the terrain.

Ways Topography is Studied

There are several ways to gather information to create topographic maps. It can be divided into two main methods: direct survey and indirect survey.

Direct survey – Direct surveying occurs when a person on the ground uses surveying equipment, such as level and inclinometers, to directly measure the location and elevation of terrain. You may have seen a surveyor along the way taking measurements while looking through a balancer while sitting on a high tripod.

Indirect survey – Remote areas can be mapped using indirect methods. These methods include satellite images, aerial photographs, radar and sonar (underwater).

What is Topography used for?

Topography has a number of uses including:

Agriculture – Topography is commonly used in agriculture to determine how soil can be conserved and how water will flow through the soil.

Environment – Topography data can help protect the environment. By understanding the contours of the soil, scientists can determine how water and wind can cause erosion. They can help establish conservation areas such as watersheds and wind blocks.

Weather – The topography of the terrain can have an impact on weather conditions. Meteorologists use information about mountains, valleys, oceans, and lakes to help predict weather.

Military – Topography is also important to the military. Militaries throughout history have used information about altitude, hills, water, and other terrain when planning their military strategy.