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© 2009 Allan Ludman and Stephen Marshak W.W.

Norton & Company

CHAPTER 8 STUDYING EARTH’S LANDFORMS
PURPOSE • To understand the different ways in which geologists study the surface of the Earth. • To be able to select the most appropriate image for studying an aspect of Earth’s surface • To practice interpreting landform models MATERIALS NEEDED • A clear plastic ruler marked in millimeters and/or tenths of an inch and • a circular protractor. • A globe and maps provided by your instructor 8.1 INTRODUCTION It is easier to study Earth’s surface today than at any time in history. To help understand surface features, we can now make detailed surface models from satellite elevation surveys and download images of any point on the planet at the click of a mouse using Google Earth® and NASA’s WorldWind. Geologists were quick to understand the scientific value of satellite imaging technology and adapt new methods as quickly as they are developed. You will use images in this manual that even researchers didn’t have at their disposal a decade ago. The study of the Earth’s surface is almost as dynamic as the surface itself! And you don’t have to be in a college laboratory to use this technology because much of it can be downloaded free of charge from the Internet. Google Earth® and NASA’s World Wind show satellite images of the entire globe and can be used to get three-dimensional views. Microdem® can build realistic digital elevation models of the landscape, draw topographic profiles, measure straight-line distances and the length of meandering streams, and estimate slope steepness. Other resources are relatively inexpensive: National Geographic’s TOPO! provides continuous topographic map coverage of each state for about $100 and also draws profiles and measures distances. 8.2 IMAGES USED TO STUDY EARTH’S SURFACE

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Digital elevation models (DEMs. to emphasize specific features. including United States Geological Survey (USGS) Orthophotoquads.The best way to study landforms would be to fly over them to get a birds-eye view and then walk or drive over them to understand them from a human perspective. Figure 8.or 30-meter intervals on the Earth’s surface. so we will have to bring the landforms to you instead. and Google Earth and World Wind images that were science fiction when we began planning this book. DEM. and elevations in the field. Topographic maps used to be drawn by surveyors who measured distances. are photographic images taken from a plane and pieced together to form a mosaic of an area. or Landsat image are normally listed and there would be a scale for measuring distance on the map and DEM. Each type of image is particularly helpful for different types of study and each has its drawbacks.1a) uses contour lines to show landforms (see Chapter 9). For example. North is assumed to be at the top of all images unless otherwise indicated.1b).1a) and aerial photographs (8. That’s not practical for a college course. some infrared wavelengths help reveal the amount and type of vegetation.1b). The latitude and longitude of the corners of a topographic map. digital elevation models (DEMs. 2 . a new generation of Landsat and other satellite images (8. Aerial photographs (Figure 8. To do so.1c) are made by a satellite that takes digital images of Earth’s surface using visible light and other wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. we will use traditional tools like maps (Figure 8. Scientists adjust the wavelengths to color the image artificially.1d). so that no one image is the right one. Figure 8. A new generation based on 1-m data is now being released and provide a more accurate model of the surface than anything available to the public 5 years ago. 8.1c). Landsat images (Figure 8.1d) are computer generated three-dimensional views of landforms made from radar satellite elevation data spaced at 10. directions. A topographic map (Figure 8. They are now made by computers from aerial photographs and radar data.1 shows a part of eastern Maine using four of these methods.

4 the least effective. Which of the images enables you to recognize the topography most easily? Why? 3 .1 show the same area but look different because each emphasizes different aspects of the surface. the topographic map (Fig. Topographic map b. Digital elevation model (DEM) The images in Figure 8.1 and rank them (1-4) in Table 8. For analyzing landforms and their evolution.1a) is the obvious choice.1: Representations of an area in eastern Maine in different kinds of images a. 8. Aerial photograph c.1: WHICH IMAGE WORKS BEST? a. Which is best? For learning the names of mountains or lakes. geologists can choose the image that works best for their particular project. Ties are allowed) b. Examine the images in Figure 8.1 by how well they show the map elements indicated (1 would be the most effective. the DEM would be useless. EXERCISE 8. for studying the network of roads in the area.Figure 8. Landsat 7 image (artificial color) d.

There are many different projections and each produces maps that look different and are used for different purposes (Figure 8. and lakes? Why? d.2.2). Which is least helpful in trying to visualize the hills. valleys. Which images show the topographic grain in this area most clearly? Once you’ve seen it on those images. like the Mercator projection.1 Map projections These images are flat. two-dimensional pictures but Earth is a nearly spherical three-dimensional body. preserve 4 . an alignment of elongate hills. Some. Which image(s) would you want to have if you were planning a wilderness hike? Why? 8.1: Evaluating landscape images Topographic map Location Direction Elevation Changes in slope Distance Aerial photograph Landsat image DEM Names of features c. Which images show highways most clearly? f. Which images show unpaved lumber roads most clearly? g. h. ridges. can you recognize it on the others? e. and valleys. Which image do you think is the oldest? The most recent? Explain your reasoning. The process by which a three-dimensional sphere is converted to a two-dimensional map is called making a projection.Table 8. Erosional agents often produce a “topographic grain”.

More sophisticated grids are used to locate features on Earth precisely. and an accurate portrayal of directions between features.accurate directions between points. The UTM grid is least familiar to Americans but is used extensively in the rest of the world. 8. It is also important to know elevations of hilltops and other features. in most states. Chicago is in grid square A8.1a Latitude and longitude The latitude/longitude grid is based on location north or south of the equator and east or west of an arbitrarily chosen north-south line (Figure 8.3). Figure 8. others preserve the true areas of features. and some the true distances between points. Maps published by the USGS use three grid systems: latitude/longitude. The maximum value for latitude is 90°N or 90°S 5 .2 Four common map projections and their different views of the world a) Orthographic b) Mercator c)Polyconic d)Sinusoidal 8. e. All projections must to some extent distort 3-D reality to fit on a 2-D piece of paper.3 MAP ELEMENTS All accurate depictions of Earth’s surface must contain certain basic elements: location. and. a way to measure the distance between features. the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid.1 Map Element 1: Location Road maps and atlases use a simple grid system to locate cities and towns.g. a way to show precisely where the area is. A parallel of latitude connects all points that are the same angular distance north or south of the Equator. and the steepness of slopes. but is good enough for most driving. the Public Land Survey System.3. This is not very precise because many other places may be in the same square.3. 8.

Illinois_____________________ St. and one second of latitude about 100 feet (31 m). 73°45’09”W. Alberta __________________________ Seattle. The same kind of comparison can only be made for longitude at the equator because the meridians merge at the poles and the distance between degrees of longitude decreases gradually toward the poles (Figure 8. minutes (’).1 mile (185 km).3b). A meridian of longitude connects all points that are the same angular distance east or west of the Prime Meridian a line that passes through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. one minute of latitude is about 1. and distances between the corners. EXERCISE 8. respectively). The maximum value for longitude is 180°E or 180°W. one degree of latitude is equivalent to approximately 69 miles (111 km). New York_______________________ Saint Johns. locate the corners of your laboratory building. Newfoundland __________________ Calgary. Alaska______________________________ Chicago. e. California__________________ Houston. England. If you have access to a GPS receiver. Washington_____________________ Los Angeles. Missouri_________________________ New York. c.(the North and South Poles. hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers and those used in cars and planes can locate points to within a second. the International Date Line. Ontario_________________________ Victoria. 40°37’44”N. Florida _________________________ Ottawa.g. east or west of the Prime Meridian. Locate the following U. Texas __________________ Miami. How could you locate the laboratory more accurately? b.S. Latitude and longitude readings are typically reported in degrees (º).2: LOCATING CITIES USING LATITUDE AND LONGITUDE a. British Columbia __________________ 6 . For reference. With the aid of a globe or map. and Canadian cities as accurately as possible Nome. determine the latitude and longitude of your geology laboratory as accurately as you can. orientation. and seconds (”) where there are 60’ in a degree and 60” in a minute. Remember: You must indicate whether a point is north or south of the Equator. Louis. “44º Latitude” could be in the northern or southern hemisphere. Draw a map showing the location.

then check. Longitude 90° S. Norway Baghdad.3 The latitude/longitude grid 90° N. 75° W Long. Were you surprised by any? City Oslo. Latitude 60° S. Italy Beijing. Longitude 90° E. Latitude 30° 30° Equator 30° S. Japan Quito. .Figure 8. England) 45° N. Iraq London. Latitude North Pole 90° W. Latitude South Pole b. 15° E Long. Ecuador Predicted North American Latitude and Longitude Actual best match 7 . Latitude 30° N. Longitude Prime Meridian 0° E or W Longitude 60° N. Longitude 60° W. without looking at a map or globe. Latitude is measured in degrees north or south of the Equator a. China Tokyo. Latitude 60° 75° W. Lat. 0° N or S Latitude 0° E or W 30° S Lat. c) Locating points using the completed grid d. Which of these cities above do you think is closest in latitude to each of the following world cities? Predict first. England Paris. France Rome.. Longitude is measured in degrees east or west of the Prime Meridian (Greenwich.

Each 6-mile square is divided into 36 sections. R3E locates it somewhere within an area of 36 square miles (inside a 6 mi x 6 mi square) • Section 12. numbered as shown in Figure 8.Cairo.4). and the southwestern states surveyed by Spanish colonists before they joined the Union.4. South Africa 8.1b Public Land Survey System The Public Land Survey System was created in 1785 to provide accurate maps as America expanded from its 13 original states. Most of the rest of the country is covered by this system. R3E locates it within an area of 1/16 square mile 8 .4a). resulting in squares ¼ mile on a side. R3E locates it somewhere within an area of ¼ square mile • SW ¼ of the SE ¼ of Section 12. T2S. Each section is divided into quarter sections ½ mile on a side and each of these is further quartered.4a). Points can be located rapidly to within an eighth of a mile in this system (Figure 8. except for Alaska. and Texas.3. T2S. Lines parallel to these at six mile intervals create grid squares 6 miles on a side forming east-west rows called townships and north-south columns called ranges (Figure 8. T2S. Townships are numbered north or south of the Base Line and Ranges east and west of the Principal Meridian (Figure 8. each one mile on a side. The grid is based on accurately surveyed north-south (Principal Meridian) and east-west (Base Line) lines for each survey region.4 is described in the series of blow-ups: • T2S. Hawaii. Egypt Capetown. The location of the star in the red box in Figure 8. R3E locates it somewhere within an area of 1 square mile • SE ¼ of Section 12.

R3E EXERCISE 8.4. each containing 6° of longitude. R3E 9 10 11 12 14 13 17 16 15 20 21 22 29 28 27 32 33 34 NW ¼ NE ¼ ¼ mile ½ mile 23 24 26 25 35 36 1 mile 1 mile SW ¼ SE ¼ SW ¼ SE ¼ ¼ mile SW ¼ of the SE ¼ of Section 12. east-west segments are called UTM zones and are numbered 1-60 eastward from the International 9 . R3E 6 7 18 19 30 31 5 8 4 3 2 1 Section 12.4 Locating with the Public Land Survey Grid R6W R5W R4W R3W R2W R1W R1E R2E R3E R4E R5E R6E Principal Meridian 6 miles 6 miles A T5N T4N T3N T2N T1N T1S T2S Base Line B T3S T4S T5S T2S. additional points your instructor indicates on topographic maps. T2S.1c Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid The UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) grid divides the Earth into 1200 segments.3. R3E NW ¼ NE ¼ SE ¼ of Section 12. T2S. North-south segments are assigned letters (CX). T2S.Figure 8. and 8° of latitude (Figure 8.5). A_________ B ____________ Determine the location of points indicated by your instructor on topographic maps 8.3: LOCATING POINTS WITH THE PUBLIC LAND SURVEY GRID Determine the location of points A and B in Figure 8.

6 UTM zones for the 48 conterminous United States The red line is the central meridian (105ºW) for UTM Zone 13.Date Line (180°W). UTM grid readings tell in meters how far north of the Equator (northings) and east of the central meridian for each zone (eastings) a point lies. The central meridian for each UTM zone (the line of longitude that runs through the center of the zone. For example. the red box in Figure 8. roughly 125º to 67º W Longitude. begin with the grid box in which the feature is located. Thus. Figure 8. etc.000 m. Zone 2 from 174° to 168° W Longitude. Figure 8. Points east of a central meridian will thus have eastings greater than 500. Because of the polar distortion in the Mercator projection evident in the sizes and shapes of Greenland and Antarctica in Figure 8. The 48 conterminous United States lie within UTM zones 10-19.6) is arbitrarily assigned an easting of 500. those west of the central meridian less than 500.5 is grid S22.000 m. the blue line is the central meridian for Zone 18 10 . the UTM grid covers only latitudes 80°N to 80°S.9 The worldwide UTM grid To locate a point. Figure 8.000 m so that no point would have a negative easting.5. UTM Zone 1 extends from 180° to 174° W Longitude.

43 48 39º15’N 120º30’W 7 16 7 17 Grid labels across the top and bottom of a map are eastings (indicated by E).11b. Remember that each grid box is 1. 560000E means 560.000 m.000 m north of the Equator (4. b) UTM gridlines used to locate a road intersection UTM grid lines 11 . In Figure 8.281. one a shorthand version. The marker immediately west of 42 5 60000E must be 559.281 km).000m north. is 4. the marker. Blue tick marks along the border of every map define a grid containing boxes 1. And 4282. Northings are similar.000 m (1 km) on a side (Figure 8.000 m square.7b). There are two kinds of labels. The marker 81000 N means 4. the other complete. Figure 8.7 Using UTM grid marks to locate features a)UTM tick marks (blue) along the sides and latitude/longitude (red) at the corner of a topographic map. 1.7 shows how the UTM grid appears on USGS topographic maps.000 m east of the central meridian for the UTM zone. the grid lines are drawn (Figure 8.7a). those along the side of the map northings (indicated by N). Abbreviations like 559 are for the intervening grid markers. In newer maps.282.000 m east of the central meridian but only every tenth value is written fully.Figure 8.

measure proportionally the distance east of 559 and north of 42 82: 559450 m E. 090º=east.To determine the location of the red star in Figure 8. 12 .8 Using a UTM grid tool UTM grid tool Tool chosen for correct map scale EXERCISE 8.9a is pointing northeast -.7b and 8.9b) 0° or 360º is due north. The direction 045º is exactly halfway between north and east.somewhere between north and east but how much closer to north than to east? On an azimuth compass (Figure 8.10c: ____________________ 8.8. The red-tipped compass needle in Figure 8. based on the dial of a compass (Figure 8. 270º = west. you can make a UTM tool for each major map scale (Figure 8.2 Map Element 2: Direction Geologists use the azimuth method to indicate direction. The direction of the needle in Figure 8. 4282182 m N.9).4: LOCATING POINTS WITH THE UTM GRID a) Use the appropriate UTM grid tool from your tool kit to determine the location of the red star in Figure 8.9 can be read as 032º.8) and determine location easily to within 10 m. 180º = south. Figure 8. Rather than doing a lot of arithmetic.8.3. _______________________ b)Give the UTM coordinates of the top of Grey Mountain in Figure 8.

align the protractor’s registration lines in a N-S or E-W position and place its center point on one of the two points. Figure 8.10a has been scaled down more than 13 .9 Using the azimuth method to describe direction between two points 0º 0º 045º 315º 045º N 315º W E 270 090º 270 A 090º S a)A simple compass 225º 180º 135º 225º B 180º 135º C b)Compass with azimuth markings c) Using a circular protractor to determine the direction between points EXERCISE 8. The three map segments in Figure 8. The more we scale down an area. The map in Figure 8. made at different scales.4 _________º 8. in this case. Figure 8. the closer the map is to the real size. A map scale indicates how much an area has been scaled down so we can relate inches or centimeters on the map to real distances on the ground.3 Map Element 3: Distance and scale A map of the entire world or your campus can fit onto an 8½ x 11” sheet of paper– if we scale the Earth down so it fits. (Figure 8. give the directions in Fig 8.10 shows three maps of the same general area.9 from: a)from A to C _____º C to A _____º B to C _____º C to B _____º .3. the direction from A to B is 235º. the more detail we lose.Use the circular protractor in your tool kit to determine the direction between any two points. Draw a line between the points.9c). b) from Point A to Point B in Figure 8. the more detail we can see. The direction from that point to the other is where the line intersects the azimuth scale.10 are the same size on the page but the area each covers is different because of their different scales.5: GIVING DIRECTIONS Using the circular (azimuth) protractor in your tool kit.

000) and therefore covers much more of the land surface on the same sized piece of paper.000 b)Scale = 1:62. Figure 8.10c (1:100.500 Note the latitude and longitude values at the southwest corner of this map segment.000 14 . Scale = 1:24. and the UTM grid ticks along the bottom and western edge c.000 vs 1:24.four times as much as Figure 8.10 An area in eastern Maine mapped at three common map scales a)Scale = 1:100.

A proportional scale refers to all units.3.280 feet/mile). we can interpret this scale to be approximately 1” = 1 mile. relationships among inches feet. Depending on how carefully you measure. 1 m=100 centimeters. even though an inch on such a map would be about 70 feet short of a mile. proportionally. one that tells exactly how much the ground has been scaled down to make the map.000th of the ground distance.000. one inch on the map equals 100. A verbal scale. uses words like “one inch equals approximately 6. we measure ground distance in miles but map distance in inches.360 inches in a mile (12 inches/foot x 5. and miles are not as simple as in the metric system. the more the ground has been scaled down.000 (1”= _______ miles).000. 1:100.58 miles) on the ground. used on many roadmaps.000 (1” = __________ feet).000 (1” = ________miles). The metric system is ideally suited for scales like 1:100. In the United States. Unfortunately. For most purposes. using a bar scale (Figure 8.360 means that one inch on a map represents exactly one mile on the ground. Other common map scales are 1:24.11) to express the same relation as the verbal scale. so the proportional scale 1:63. A driver can estimate distances between cities but not very accurately. or graphically. Map scale can also be shown graphically. Old topographic maps use a scale of 1:62. 1:250. etc. and 1:1.7 miles” to describe the scaling of map and real distances. and 1 km=1.000 (one to one hundred thousand).000 centimeters (one kilometer) on the ground. but not as accurate as a proportional scale. one centimeter on the map equals 100.000 because it is based on multiples of 10: 1 cm=10 millimeters. The most accurate way to describe scale is a proportional scale. Proportional scales like 1:100.000 or 1:100. 15 . The larger the number.8. Thus.500.000 meters. a bar scale can be more accurate than a verbal scale. mean that distances on the map have been scaled down to one 100.000 inches (1. There are 63.3a Different ways to describe map scale Map scale may be expressed verbally.000 (see above).

4 VERTICAL EXAGGERATION—A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE DEMs show the land surface in three dimensions and must therefore use an appropriate vertical scale in order to show how much taller one feature is than another. Landforms are typically much wider than they are high.500/10.1” if the 1:62.000= 6.500 horizontal scale had been used vertically.25” in the model. a 400’ hill would be about half an inch tall –more realistic than the 0. It would seem logical to use the same scale for vertical and horizontal distances. but we don’t usually do so because mountains wouldn’t look much like mountains and hills would barely be visible. a hilltop 400 feet above its surroundings would be less than one tenth of an inch high. A mountain rising 1 mile above its surroundings would stand up 6.500 map. At a scale of 1:62. a vertical scale of 1:10. standing only a few hundred or thousand feet above or below their surroundings. 16 . If we used the same scale to make a three-dimensional model. We therefore exaggerate the vertical scale compared to the horizontal to show features from a human perspective. For a three-dimensional model of a 1:62.000 would exaggerate apparent elevations by a little more than 6 times (62.11 Scale bars used with three common proportional scales 8. one inch represents about a mile.Figure 8. A mountain rising a mile above its base would be only one inch high.500.25).

E. Vertical exaggerations of 2-5 X generally preserve the basic proportions of landforms while presenting features clearly.12d exaggerates too much. With no vertical exaggeration.) No Vertical Exaggeration V.12a is barely noticeable. called the vertical exaggeration.12a would suggest.1 showing the effects of vertical exaggeration (VE)(V. We will return to the concept of vertical exaggeration when we discuss drawing topographic profiles from topographic maps. = 5X VE = 10X VE = 20X 17 . One of the authors of this manual has climbed that hill several times and guarantees that climbing it is far more difficult than Figure 8.12 DEMs of part of the area in Figure 8. Figure 8. Is there such a thing as too much vertical exaggeration? The basic rule of thumb: Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.The degree to which the vertical scale has been exaggerated is.E. the hill did not seem that steep. logically enough. Figure 8. Figure 8. On the other hand. the prominent hill in the center of Figure 8. even with a pack loaded with rocks.12 shows the effects of vertical exaggeration on a DEM.