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# Lab 9 Topographic and Geologic Maps

By Marion Clark,2014-05-07 21:19
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Lab 9 Topographic and Geologic Maps

Creating a vertical cross section from a topographic map

Topographic Maps

Topographic maps (often called “topo maps”) represent the three-dimensional landscape

on a two-dimensional piece of paper. Topography the elevation of the earth’s surface – is

represented on a topo map by contour lines. Contour lines are lines of equal elevation. The

elevation change between each line (“contour interval”) varies from map to map, but each map

will have only one contour interval, which is listed on the map. Ordinary contour lines always

enclose higher ground; where a contour line encloses a depression, the line will have tick marks

on the inside. Figure 1 shows how a three-dimensional surface can be represented on a topo map

using contour lines.

For obvious reasons, topo maps, like other types of maps, show a scaled-down version of

the earth’s surface. Each map typically shows two types of scales on the map: a numerical scale

and a bar scale. Numerical scales are given as representative fractions, or ratios. For example,

on a 1:24,000 map one inch on the map represents 24,000 inches on the ground. Bar scales

measure distance by displaying a simple line or bar showing represented distance in feet, miles,

and/or kilometers.

Figure 1. Topographic map and corresponding block diagram.

Topographic Cross-sections

When looking at a topo map, you are seeing the landscape from directly above (often

referred to as “map view”). Sometimes it is useful to visualize how the landscape would look in

profile. Constructing a topographic cross-section gives us a side view of the landscape along a

line. You can think of a cross-section as the topography you would encounter as you walked a

straight line between two points. A profile is unexaggerated if the horizontal and vertical scales

are the same. To emphasize the differences in relief in a comparatively flat area, the vertical

scale may be expanded relative to the horizontal scale, producing a cross-section with vertical

exaggeration. Vertical exaggeration is given by:

1

E=H/V where E = vertical exaggeration

H = denominator of the horizontal scale fraction

V = denominator of the vertical scale fraction

One efficient way to construct topographic cross-sections is to outlined below:

1. Lay a strip of blank paper along the line you want to profile.

2. Mark on the edge of the paper endpoints of the profile line and the exact place that

each contour, stream, and hilltop crosses the profile line. Where contour lines are

closely spaced, it is sufficient to label just the index contours (every fifth contour,

drawn bold on topo maps). Double-check yourself every five lines or so. (Figure 9.2)

3. Label each mark with the contour elevation or other feature it represents.

4. Determine the total relief of the profile line. Relief is the difference in elevation

between the highest and lowest points.

5. Prepare a vertical scale on a sheet of graph paper or lined paper based on the relief.

Label the horizontal lines on this sheet to correspond to the elevation of each index

contour line

6. Write down the vertical exaggeration of your profile. Compare what an inch

represents on each of your axes using the equation given above. Be sure to

exaggerate only when needed for clarity.

7. Place the plain paper with labeled marks at the bottom (or top) of the profile paper

and carefully project each contour onto the horizontal line of the same elevation.

8. Connect all of the points with a smooth line. Mark streams, peaks, benchmarks

(points of exact elevation, as surveyed), etc.

9. Check that your profile matches the general topography along your transect line.

For the Torrey pines project, use a vertical/horizontal exaggeration of 2x.

After you make your vertical cross-section, put the geology from your map on the top surface of

the cross section. Then by using what you know about the lateral extent of the various

geological units, how they dip along the cross section or where they pinch out, sketch the