What are relief maps?
Want to learn more? Watch MOVA Geography: The Ecliptic
The term relief refers to the horizontal and vertical dimensions of land surface, also known as terrain. Instead of emphasizing geographical boundaries of states and countries, relief maps emphasize the relative height of the land. They do this by changing the colors and shading based on differences in height, which often causes surfaces to look three-dimensional. Cartographers make these maps by collecting geographic and demographic data and then translating the information into various map forms. A region’s terrain is one of the main determinants of its suitability for successful human settlement. Areas that are very steep and rocky are not as welcoming to residents when compared to flat plains that have sedimentary features. Relief maps help planners locate watersheds, determine where water moves and predict how human activity is likely to affect water quality. When flying into small airports, the terrain will often make the difference between a smooth landing and a rough landing.