World Builders™                                                                              Session Two  --  Geology             

                      
                  Making a Relief Map

Relief maps, also called topographic maps,  show the high and low places of a landscape.

relief map of mountain
Map courtesy of Chalk Butte Digital Maps

Here is a beautiful relief map.  Can you see the mountain?  Can you see rivers?  Maps can show where the hills and valleys of a landscape are.


     Relief maps help us to understand what a piece of land is like by showing us where the high and low places are.

This section explains what the maps mean and how to make such a map.

     Let's learn how to make a simple relief map by making a map ourselves. We will start with this pyramid and make a relief map of it.


Step One
The first step is to decide on your measuring units. This pyramid is about 300 feet high. I have decided to measure it in 50 foot increments. By this I meanpyramid

color Elevation of The Section
between 250 ft and 300 feet
between 200 ft and 250 feet
between 150 ft and 200 feet
between 100 ft and 150 feet
Between 50 ft and 100 feet
Between 0 ft and 50 feet

Notice that I have marked a measuring rod.

I use the measuring rod to find the elevations of different parts of the pyramid. I make dots all around the pyramid where the pyramid is 50 feet above the ground. When I have finished, I join the dots with a line. Next I make dots around the pyramid where it is 100 feet up from ground level and join that set of dots. I do this for each level. The lines that join the dots are called contour lines.

Note that we are not measuring up the slanted side of the pyramid. We are measuring the distance straight up from the ground.


Step Two
Now we color in each level of the pyramid to correspond with the elevation colors that we have chosen.

color Elevation of The Section
between 250 ft and 300 feet
between 200 ft and 250 feet
between 150 ft and 200 feet
between 100 ft and 150 feet
Between 50 ft and 100 feet
Between 0 ft and 50 feet



Step Three
 

Even though the pyramid sides slope upward, we will make the sides vertical, in order to show the greatest area at each elevation level. This makes the colored areas into rectangles.


 


Step Four
 

 

Now let's cut the pyramid horizontally to separate the colors.

 



 

 


Step Five

Because the pyramid has four sides, the pieces that we cut are squares of different sizes.

When we lay them out, they look like this.


Step Six

If we put one color on top of another, the stack of colors will look like this.

color Elevation of The Section
between 250 ft and 300 feet
between 200 ft and 250 feet
between 150 ft and 200 feet
between 100 ft and 150 feet
Between 50 ft and 100 feet
Between 0 ft and 50 feet

We have just made a relief map!

By comparing the colors, we can see which parts of the map represent the tallest part of the pyramid.


Step Seven


Compare these two pictures. You can see a model and a picture. Match the colors up!

 

 

 

 

 


Did You Get It?

Of course, people don't make maps of pyramids. The map of a planet has many different types of changes in elevation. Did you get the idea?

Try this. Here is a picture of the elevations of an island.


Now, click on the map that shows the best picture of this island.

 


Here's something else to try     --      From Contour Map to Landscape Profile

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Header image from NASA  Earth from Space
© 1996,1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003.   Elizabeth Anne Viau. All rights reserved. This material may be used by individuals for instructional purposes but not sold. Please inform the author if you use it at eviau@earthlink.net .