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Reading Maps: Mountains and Contour Lines

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Team Digital

Basics on the topic Reading Maps: Mountains and Contour Lines

What do mountains have to do with contour lines? Join Mio on a bike ride and discover contour lines, elevation layers and how to spot mountains on a map.

Transcript Reading Maps: Mountains and Contour Lines

Mio can't wait to race his bike down a steep hill. But where is the easiest route for him to bike to the top? Let's learn about "Reading Maps: Mountains and Contour Lines." This mountain is not only wide, but also high. However, the map that Mio is looking at is FLAT. So how can we show the height of the mountain on it? For this, we'll need to use something called CONTOUR LINES. On our mountain, we draw a contour line every hundred feet. Small numbers on the contour lines show us how high the land is above sea level. Between two contour lines on maps is an elevation layer. Elevation layers are colored on maps to help us see the height of the mountain. We are now doing the same with our mountain. At the foot of the mountain it is mostly green ... as it becomes higher, the green becomes brighter ... until it slowly turns to yellow ... and then to orange. If the mountain is very high, the upper altitude layers can even change to red or brown. Now, we turn to look at the mountain from an aerial view, (...) that's what we call it when we look at it from above almost like we are flying in an AIRplane looking down. Wow! This way the mountain ALMOST looks the same as on the map! Here again we see our numbers showing us how high the mountain is above sea level. You can read the altitude, or height, with the help of the map legend. It shows you which color stands for which altitude. You can also read the altitude, or height, with the help of the map legend. It shows you which color stands for which altitude. Now how can Mio tell from this map the best places to go up and down the mountain? In this view you can see well where the mountain is flatter.... ... and where it is steeper. Keep a good eye on the contour lines now as we turn our view of the mountain to an aerial one. Do you see a difference between the contour lines on the flat side and on the steep side? The FARTHER apart the contour lines are on a map, the FLATTER the mountain is there. Where it is particularly flat, we call it a flat slope. If the contour lines are closer together, the mountain rises more steeply. We call it a steep slope. So, Mio's easiest route up the mountain would be on THIS side, ... and fastest way down will be on THIS side! While Mio cycles up the mountain, let's take a look at what we learned today. Mountains are represented on maps with contour lines ... which show elevation layers, or height. This view of a mountain is called the aerial view. The farther apart the contour lines are, ... the flatter the mountain rises. Conversely, a mountain rises more steeply, ... when the contour lines are closer to each other. We call this a flat slope ... and steep slope. Let's see where Mio is. He found the flattest route to ride his bike to the top ... and can have extra fun with the steep slope on the way down... Uh-oh! Good luck, Mio!

Reading Maps: Mountains and Contour Lines exercise

Would you like to apply the knowledge you’ve learned? You can review and practice it with the tasks for the video Reading Maps: Mountains and Contour Lines.
  • Identify the correct meaning of each term.

    Hints

    In an airplane we look down at the earth from above. Which vocabulary term is similar to airplane?

    This shows how much distance there is between contour lines.

    Contour lines which are used to show elevation or height by using different colored lines, are the most important feature on this map.

    Solution

    An elevation level is the distance between 2 contour lines on a map.

    Aerial view is when you are looking at the earth as if from up above, or from an airplane.

    The map legend is a box or 'key' on a contour line map, which shows you which color represents which altitude.

    A flat slope is indicated when an area on a map has contour lines that are farther apart, so we know the earth does not rise very steeply.

    Contour lines are lines on a map that show elevation, or height.

  • Identify the different parts of the map with the correct label.

    Hints

    Each elevation layer is between 2 contour lines.

    On a flat slope the contour lines are further apart. On a steep slope they are closer together.

    The map legend shows us how many elevation layers there are, how high they are, and what color they are.

    Solution

    An elevation layer tell us how high a point is above sea level, and each layer is shown in different colors.

    A flat slope is where the land rises less steeply, and the contour lines are further apart.

    A steep slope is where the land rises more steeply, and the contour lines are closer together.

    The map legend shows us how high each elevation layer is.

  • Identify the correct statements about contour lines.

    Hints

    Contour lines on a map can give information about height, distance, and how steep a slope may be.

    There are three correct statements about contour lines.

    Solution

    The three statements above are the correct statements about contour lines.

  • Look at the map to identify the true and false statements.

    Hints

    Use the map legend to see how high each elevation layer is.

    Aerial view is when we look down on something or someone. Profile view is when we look at something or someone from the side.

    There are 3 true statements and 2 false statements.

    Solution

    Here are the true and false statements about the map above.

  • Describe the use of contour lines.

    Hints

    Elevation layers on maps have a different color for each layer. This helps us see the altitude of a mountain.

    Below sea level would usually show how far underwater something is.

    There is one correct answer and three false answers.

    Solution

    Contour lines on a map show both the height and the width of mountains.

  • Complete the sentences with the correct terms about contour lines.

    Hints

    An aerial view looks down on something from above, like a bird or airplane flying in the sky.

    A flat slope is indicated when the contour lines stretch further apart from one another- A steep slope in indicated when the lines are closer together.

    Solution
    • Contour lines are circular lines used to show height. They usually look like several circles or ovals inside of one another.
    • A steep slope is shown by drawing many contour lines close together. This helps us see where there are very steep inclines.
    • Elevation layers are colored areas on a map used to show height, such as for mountains, plateaus, and hills.
    • A map legend is a small box, usually in the bottom corner of the map, that gives information about elevation layers and distance.
    • An aerial view shows a map from above, as if you were a bird looking down on the land below.