Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Making sense of scale

Image above: The zoom tool of spatial levels and scale.

Sites related to GeogSplace
Spatialworlds blog
Socialsense blog
Spatial literacy Scoop.it
Geographical thinking Scoop.it
Spatial Education and technology Scoop.it
Follow Spatialworlds on Twitter

Email contact

Making sense of scale
In previous Spatialworlds postings I explored the concept of scale and discussed the idea of looking at scale like a zoom tool. That is, as 21st Century citizens we zoom in and out of the spatial levels as we think about geographical events, phenomena and processes. One minute we may be thinking at the spatial level of global, then regional, then national and then local (not necessarily in that order). We repeatedly zoom in and out as we try to make sense of our world in geographical terms. This has not always been the case in the past, with citizens being much more locally focussed without access to travel, education and media that allow a broader perception of scale. It can be argued that there is a difference in scale perception between rural and city dwellers, less developed and more developed countries and between isolated and less isolated places. Certainly food for thought as we consider world views on a range of issues. 
Basically the creation of a map at a particular scale is simply a snapshot of where we are thinking at the time - if thinking global we create a map of the world at the appropriate scale.

This posting gives a few ideas on practical ways to understand the concept of scale and delves into the terms small and large scale maps.

Some hands-on ideas

To help demystify scale some teachers have suggested the use of different size Tupperware to demonstrate how one spatial level dovetails into another. As shown in the image above, the teacher has placed cut-outs of world maps, national, regional and local inside each of the varied  size Tupperware containers.

Another interesting way some teachers employ is the use of Babushka dolls to demonstrate the spatial levels of scale.

After getting across the concept of spatial levels and zooming in and out we can move onto exploring the mathematical aspect of scale. A student friendly way to engage the concept of map scale and ratio is through the study of the scale of model trains/planes/boats. The 1:real life ratio is certainly a good way for students to relate to the concept of scale before trying to decipher a map ratio (also referred to as a Representative Fraction - RF) such as 1: 100 000.

Large and small scale maps

A point of scale which often causes consternation is the question of what is a small scale map versus a large scale map? To help with this it is best to just say that the smallest scale map is the globe (RF of 1: 40 million) - shows a large all of the world at little detail. Every map of a lesser ratio in number is called a large scale map - shows a smaller area of the earth in greater detail i.e. a 1:100 000 map is a smaller scale map that a 1:50 000 map. Just think 'globe small, 'globe small'!! ... and then work backwards from there to the largest scale maps of the local area.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The economics of geography

 Image above: Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of countries.

Sites related to GeogSplace
Spatialworlds blog
Socialsense blog
Spatial literacy Scoop.it
Geographical thinking Scoop.it
Spatial Education and technology Scoop.it
Follow Spatialworlds on Twitter

Email contact
Global economy through maps

Many consider that the area of economic geography is an oft neglected aspect of geography courses. The following resources mapping economic factors/phenomena across the globe is very useful  to learn about the variance in economic health and wealth across the globe. The 38 maps on the global economy showcased in this GeogSplace posting provide some surprises and  certainly some great fodder for you to think about.

* The 38 maps to explain the global economy is a very powerful way to show the economic geography of the globe.

World export map

As the site says: "Commerce knits the modern world together in a way that nothing else quite does. Almost anything you own these days is the result of a complicated web of global interactions. And there's no better way to depict those interactions and the social and political circumstances that give rise to them than with a map or two. Some of the maps focus on the big picture while others illustrate finer details. The overall portrait that emerges is of a world that's more closely linked than ever before, but still riven by enormous geography-driven differences."

Unemployment in Europe

* The Anthropocene - a brave new world or the precursor to the end of the Earth as we know it?

Although not specifically on economic geography, the changes brought about during the Anthropocene will have significant impacts on the economic health of the Earth.
The video on the site is a 3-minute journey through the last 250 years of the earths history, from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the Rio+20 Summit. The film charts the growth of humanity into a global force on the equivalent scale to major geological processes.
The other videos on climate change, water and urbanisation on the 'Welcome to the Anthropocene' site are certainly worth a look.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Revisiting gradient and VE

Sites related to GeogSplace
Spatialworlds blog
Socialsense blog
Spatial literacy Scoop.it
Geographical thinking Scoop.it
Spatial Education and technology Scoop.it
Follow Spatialworlds on Twitter

Email contact

Two areas of mapping we need to revisit relate to the skills of calculating gradient and vertical exaggeration.

Vertical Exaggeration

Vertical exaggeration simply means that your vertical scale is larger than your horizontal scale (in the example you could use 1 cm is equal to 1000m for your vertical scale, while keeping the horizontal scale the same). Vertical exaggeration is often used if you want to discern subtle topographic features.
To determine the amount of vertical exaggeration used to construct a profile, simply divide the real-world units on the horizontal axis by the real-world units on the vertical axis (both need to be in metres)
Vertical exaggeration formula: VE = (real world units of horizontal scale) / (real world units of vertical scale).

As an example for a 1:50000 topographic map, we can set the horizontal scale (x axis) of the profile the same as the map.

* Labeling 1 cm units on x axis: 1cm on map = 50000cm in real world = 500m in real world. If we decide to use the same value for our vertical scale (1cm = 500m for y axis), then there will be a vertical exaggeration (VE) of (500m / 500m) = 1x or no vertical exaggeration.

* Changing our y axis scale so that 1cm would represent 250m then we would have 500m/250m = 2x (read 2 times) vertical exaggeration.

Another explanation of how to calculate vertical exaggeration?

Step 1:

You basically look at the vertical scale and the horizontal scale and convert them to the same unit of measurement. Metres is usually the best one.

e.g. vertical scale - 1:50m
horizontal scale - 1:100 000 (the horizontal scale would always be in centimetres at first as marked on the map)

Convert them to the same unit of measurement and this would make

vertical scale - 1:50m
horizontal scale - 1: 1000m

Step 2: Then you just divide the metres of the horizontal scale by the metres of the vertical scale

1000m divided by 50m = 20

i.e. The vertical exaggeration is 20.

Just remember that when you're trying to calculate the vertical exaggeration on a topographic map, it won't always be a whole number so you'll be expected to round it to the nearest one.

Calculating a Gradient (Slope)

  • Decide on an area for which you want to calculate the slope (note, it should be an area where the slope direction does not change; do not cross the top of a hill or the bottom of a valley).
  • Once you have decided on an area of interest, draw a straight line perpendicular to the contours on the slope.
  • Measure the length (run) of the line you drew and, using the scale of the map, convert that distance to metres.
  • Determine the total elevation change (rise) along the line you drew (subtract the elevation of the lowest contour used from the elevation of the highest contour used). You do not need to do any conversions on this measurement, as it is a real-world
  • To calculate the gradient of the slope, divide the elevation change (rise) in metres by the distance (run) of the line you drew (after converting it to metres). The angle you calculated is the angle between a horizontal plane and the surface of the hill
…and another explanation
Calculate the difference in height between the two points, then calculate the difference in length between the 2 points and divide.
So lets say you have a rise of 100m and a run of 1000m. It means the gradient is 100/1000, but the numerator must be 1 so that would equate to 1/10, or 1:10. It means that for every 10m you travel, the height goes up by 1m. Also make sure the rise and run are in the same units. In this case the gradient can be explained as 1 in 10 or 1:10 or 1/10 or 0.10, which means that for every 10 units travelled horizontally, the ground rises (or falls) one unit vertically.

Interesting sites for us on global population change

Image above: The Mercator projection (black) overlayed on the Peters projection.

Sites related to GeogSplace
Spatialworlds blog
Socialsense blog
Spatial literacy Scoop.it
Geographical thinking Scoop.it
Spatial Education and technology Scoop.it
Follow Spatialworlds on Twitter

A world but not as we know it!

* Check out this site as part of your revision on the changing world population.

What can the median age of a country tell you about its future?
Turns out, quite a bit. Using data from the CIA Factbook, we’ve created the graphics below to show you the median age of every country in the world.
There are 1.2 billion people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the world today — and that means that many countries have populations younger than ever before.
Some believe that this "youth bulge" helps fuel social unrest — particularly when combined with high levels of youth unemployment. Writing for the Guardian last year, John Podesta, director of the progressive Center for American Progress, warned that youth unemployment is a “global time bomb,” as long as today’s millennials remain “hampered by weak economies, discrimination, and inequality of opportunity.”
The world’s 15 youngest countries are all in Africa. Of the continent’s 200 million young people, about 75 million are unemployed. The world’s youngest country is Niger, with a median age of 15.1, and Uganda comes in at a close second at 15.5.
On the flip side, an aging population presents a different set of problems: Japan and Germany are tied for the world’s oldest countries, with median ages of 46.1. Germany’s declining birth rate might mean that its population will decrease by 19 percent, shrinking to 66 million by 2060. An aging population has a huge economic impact: in Germany, it has meant a labor shortage, leaving jobs unfilled.
What do you think will be the long-term impact of the world's shifting demographics?

Have a good look at the maps in this article to support the above geographical analysis.

* Why this Ebola outbreak became the worst we've ever seen

The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more people than sum total of all the previous outbreaks since the virus was first identified in 1976. This video explains how it got so bad." 

Mapping projections
A really interesting blog on projections, containing some great visuals to show students that the world can be shown in many ways. Just like statistics, we can manipulate projections of the world to meet any agenda - why is England always in the centre of maps and Australia to the East! In particular the blog provides the opportunity to revisit that great scene from 'West Wing' where they are briefed on projections.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Where is the water storage in Oz

Image above: The BOM Water Sorage interactive.

Sites related to GeogSplace
Spatialworlds blog
Socialsense blog
Spatial literacy Scoop.it
Geographical thinking Scoop.it
Spatial Education and technology Scoop.it
Follow Spatialworlds on Twitter

Email contact

1. The issue of water storage

Here is the BOM water storage interactive site we had a look at this week. Have a play with the site and see what can you summise about water storage in Australia today and our future needs?  http://water.bom.gov.au//waterstorage/awris/

Also have a look at what the SA WATER site tells you about water storage in South Australia.

The Australian Government Water Commission site is also a great resource on the issue of water in Australia. Spend some time trawling through this site for information relevant to our water resources topic. Here are just some facts from the site:

Australian water resources are highly variable, both spatially and temporally. Managing competing water demands against the variable supply becomes more difficult, and the need for precision in management arises, as more of the resource is relied on for extraction and use.


  • In 2004–05, rainfall for Australia was 2,789,400 gigalitres, which was substantially below average for most of the country (except in south-west Western Australia and northern New South Wales).
  • The 2004–05 year was preceded by more than five years of below-average rainfall across large parts of Australia, particularly the eastern states and south-west Western Australia.
  • On average, 90 per cent of rainfall is directly evaporated back to the atmosphere or used by plants—only 10 per cent runs off to rivers and streams or recharges groundwater aquifers.

Runoff and recharge

  • 2004–05 total water runoff was estimated at 242,800 gigalitres and total groundwater recharge estimated at 49,200 gigalitres giving a total inflow to Australia’s water resources of 292,000 gigalitres.
  • Total water resource in 2004-05 was approximately 20 per cent less than that estimated for 1996-97(NLWRA 2001). This decline is likely to be due to drier conditions in 2004-05 and double counting of surface water and groundwater resources in 1996-97.

Distribution of water resources

  • Of the total runoff (242,800 gigalitres), more than 60 per cent occurred in Australia’s three northern drainage divisions. Runoff was greatest in the Gulf of Carpentaria drainage division (62,060 gigalitres), the Timor Sea drainage division (50,240 gigalitres) and the North-East Coast drainage division (40,210 gigalitres).
  • While over 60 per cent of runoff occurred in northern Australia, only 6 per cent of Australia’s runoff was in the Murray-Darling Basin, which accounted for 50 per cent of Australia’s water use occurs.

Dam storage levels

  • Australia’s total large dam storage capacity was 83,853 gigalitres, with 44,164 gigalitres in storage at 1 July 2004. This is declined by 10 per cent to 39,959 gigalitres at June 2005.
  • The greatest declines in large dam storage levels between 2002 and 2005, in percentage terms, occurred in New South Wales (33 per cent) and Victoria (22 per cent), with an overall decline of 18 per cent occurring across Australia.
  • June 2005 large dams with the highest storage levels were Western Australia (at 83 per cent capacity) and Northern Territory (at 70 per cent capacity). The states with lowest levels were New South Wales (at 33 per cent capacity) and Victoria (at 39 per cent capacity).

2. The PowerPoint
Also here is the Moodle link to the geographical knowledge and skills Powerpoint we used this week. I suggest you go through the Powerpoint several times to gain an understanding of the key points.

3. The Murray Darling Basin issue
Make sure you do those questions on the previous posting about the Murray Darling Basin!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Water is the question!

Water in Australia

In this blog task you are to explore the issue of water as a resource. In particular, to focus on the nature of water in Australia and the issues facing the sustainability of water supply and quality in South Australia. In short, to explore the social, economic and environmental consequences of human interaction with the resource and possible sustainability solutions.

As a South Australian you should be particularly interested in the importance of the Murray Darling Basin and the continued health of the River Murray.

In particular you should be able to address the following questions:
* Highlight and argue the extent of water supply and importance of water as a resource globally and to the Australian people.

* The nature of water supply and scarcity in Australia.

* Sources of water in Australia, in particular using the case study of the Murray Darling River Basin.

* The problems facing the Murray Darling Basin.

* What are the alternative views on how the Murray River can be managed to be sustainable into the future?

* How can Adelaide be made sustainable in terms of water supply and usage?

Resources to use to answer above questions

1. Global Interaction 1: Page 53-73 and pages 176-212
2. Essential: Pages 174-239
3. The MDB http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SBtdsH-AyI&list=PLRAt992THH96gva_Ku45gxRj_VGNiBmZp
4. Murray Darling Basin Authority website http://www.mdba.gov.au/about-basin
5. Water cycle and variability in the MDB http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=707pRTxhrNQ 
6. Murray Darling Basin Plan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wumfo3AJ57c  
7. MDB talk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDfJ6Q2_NEk
8. Selection of MDB videos  http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=murray+darling+basin+issue

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Going to the well! Water scarcity on Earth

Water scarcity on Earth

Despite the amount of water that makes up our ‘Blue Planet’, water scarcity is one of the biggest problems facing our Earth.

Water is an essential resource for life and good health. A lack of water to meet daily needs is a reality today for one in three people around the world. Globally, the problem is getting worse as cities and populations grow, and the needs for water increase in agriculture, industry and households. The health consequences of water scarcity, its impact on daily life and how it could impede international development should urge everyone to be part of efforts to conserve and protect the resource.

Where is the water?

Sites related to GeogSplace 
Spatialworlds blog
Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

Geographical thinking Scoop.it  

"Sustainability is both a goal and a way of thinking"
The distribution of water on Earth: not a lot of fresh water really!!!

The image above shows that in comparison to the volume of the globe the amount of water on the planet is very small - and the oceans are only a "thin film" of water on the surface.
The blue spheres represent all of Earth's water, Earth's liquid fresh water, and water in lakes and rivers

The largest sphere represents all of Earth's water, and its diameter is about 860 miles (the distance from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Topeka, Kansas). It would have a volume of about 332,500,000 cubic miles (mi3) (1,386,000,000 cubic kilometers (km3)). The sphere includes all the water in the oceans, ice caps, lakes, and rivers, as well as groundwater, atmospheric water, and even the water in you, your dog, and your tomato plant.

The ‘Blue Planet’

Water is widely distributed on Earth as freshwater and salt water in the oceans. The Earth is often referred to as the "blue planet" because when viewed from space it appears blue. This blue color is caused by reflection from the oceans which cover roughly 71% of the area of the Earth.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Another contentious resource use issue: The Great Barrier Reef coal port at Abbot point

Image above: The resource issue of dredging to develop a coal port at Abbot Point in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.


Related sites to GeogSplace
Spatialworlds blog

Geographical thinking Scoop.it  

Firstly, watch this ABC Four Corners program on the issue.

Background on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is responsible for ensuring the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – one of the world's greatest natural treasures - is protected for the future.

An ecosystem based approach is used, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is widely recognised as one of the best managed marine protected areas in the world.
The Marine Park is a multiple-use area that supports a range of communities and industries that depend on the Reef for recreation or their livelihoods. Tourism, fishing, boating and shipping are all legitimate uses of the Marine Park.
The entire Marine Park is covered by a Zoning Plan that identifies where particular activities are permitted and where some are not permitted.
The Zoning Plan separates conflicting uses, with 33 per cent of the Marine Park afforded marine national park status where fishing and collecting is not permitted.
In high use areas near Cairns and the Whitsunday Islands, special Plans of Management are in place in addition to the underlying Zoning Plan,
In addition, other Special Management Areas have been to created for particular types of protection, such as the Dugong Protection Areas.

The GBRMPA coordinates a range of activities to protect and manage the Great Barrier Reef. They are focused on 12 broad management topics:

This all sounds great as a way to ensure the Great Barrier Reef is sustained as a valuable environmental and heritage resources for all Australians, and as a World Heritage listed area, for the world. However as is often the case, the Great Barrier Reef is also an area with competing and  conflicting demands in the area of transport, mining and tourism, to name just a few. Over recent years there has been a decline in the health of the Great Barrier Reef and serious threats now face the ecology of the reef into the future. The ABC Four Corners program aired on 18 August 2014 on the latest controversy is just one such threat created by the plan to dredge a coal port at Abbot Point. 


Background on the dredging and dumping for a Coalport in Great Barrier Reef area

The nub of this issue is that in December 2013, Greg Hunt, the Australian environment minister, approved a plan for dredging to create three shipping terminals as part of the construction of a coalport at Abbot Point. According to corresponding approval documents, the process will create around 3 million cubic metres of dredged seabed that will be dumped within the Great Barrier Reef marine park area. On 31 January 2014, the GBRMPA issued a dumping permit that will allow three million cubic metres of sea bed from Abbot Point, north of Bowen, to be transported and unloaded in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. 

Potential significant harms have been identified in relation to dredge spoil and the process of churning up the sea floor in the area and exposing it to air: firstly, new research shows the finer particles of dredge spoil can cloud the water and block sunlight, thereby starving sea grass and coral up to distances of 80 km away from the point of origin due to the actions of wind and currents. Furthermore, dredge spoil can literally smother reef or sea grass to death, while storms can repeatedly re-suspend these particles so that the harm caused is ongoing; secondly, disturbed sea floor can release toxic substances into the surrounding environment.

Commentators say that the decision by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has shocked and angered the scientific community. There seems to be deep divisions between the scientists and bureaucrats behind the decision. They show that the dumping was approved despite previous recommendations from senior scientists that it be rejected.

"That decision has to be a political decision. It is not supported by science at all, and I was absolutely flabbergasted when I heard." - Dr Charlie Veron, marine scientist 

The Chairman of the Marine Park Authority denies the decision was political and the Federal Environment Minister insists it will take place under the strictest environmental conditions.

As you will see in the video, this certainly is an interesting and confusing debate about the issue of a resource. Use the issue deconstruction template to clarify your thinking on the issue.

What do you think should happen?

Here are some great resources on the issue:

* ABC online  
* ABC News, June 2014 on Abbot Point
* ABC News, July 2014
* Mining Australia website 
* Sydney Morning Herald, March 2014
* Sydney Morning Herald, May 2014
* The conversation  
* Australian Marine Conservation Society
* Canberra times, August 2014
* The Australian, December 2013


... and many more   https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=abbot+point+dredging