Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The economics of geography

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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
4. Murray Darling Basin Authority website
5. Water cycle and variability in the MDB 
6. Murray Darling Basin Plan  
7. MDB talk
8. Selection of MDB videos