This lab module examines fundamental concepts and tools geographers use to

study the Earth. Topics include latitude and longitude, absolute and relative

location, geospatial technologies, map types and scale. While these topics may

seem disparate, you will learn how they are inherently related.

The modules start with four opening topics, or vignettes, found in the

accompanying Google Earth file. These vignettes introduce basic concepts related to

geospatial tools and technologies. Some of the vignettes have animations, videos,

or short articles that will provide another perspective or visual explanation for the

topic at hand. After reading each vignette and associated links, answer the

following questions. Please note that some components of this lab may take a while

to download or open, especially if you have a slow internet connection.

Expand GEOGRAPHER’S TOOLS, and then expand the INTRODUCTION folder.

Double-click Topic 1: Tools for Geography.

Read Topic 1: Tools for Geography.

Question 1: According to the article, what are three geographic technologies

geographers use to study the Earth?

A. GIS, GPS, and compasses

B. GPS, remote sensing, and GIS

C. GIS, AutoCAD, and remote sensing

D. GPS, Glovis, and GIS

Read Topic 2: Maps.

Question 2: In what state was the first topographic map (relief map using

contour lines) issued in the United States?

A. Delaware

B. Louisiana

C. Maryland

D. Mississippi

Read Topic 3: Coordinate Systems and Location.

Question 3: What continent is found at grid cell 35N?

A. The continent of Africa


B. The continent of Australia

C. The continent of Europe

D. The continent of South America

Read Topic 4: Geospatial Technologies.

Question 4: Looking at the map layers above, which layers would be most

likely acquired through the use of radar and satellites?

A. States and cities

B. Countries and Territories

C. Background

D. Radar and Satellite

Collapse and uncheck INTRODUCTION.


Latitude and Longitude form a grid on the Earth’s surface, enabling us to determine

an absolute location for any given place or phenomenon.



Turn on the latitude and longitude grid by selecting View > Grid, or by using

the keyboard shortcut CTRL + L. Mac users click + L.

Lines of latitude, or parallels, divide the globe at the Equator, and run parallel in

both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres (Figure 1). Locations in the Northern

Hemisphere are denoted with an N (or a positive number), while locations in the

Southern Hemisphere are denoted with an S (or a negative number). The parallel at

the Equator is 0°N or 0°S, and increases to 90°N (or +90) at the North Pole, and

90°S (or -90) at the South Pole.

Latitude (parallels)

Longitude (meridians)

Figure 1. Lines of latitude (parallels) and longitude (meridians) (Arbogast)

Double-click and select Prime Meridian.

Lines of longitude, or meridians, run from pole to pole. Along the Prime Meridian

(which runs through Greenwich, UK), the Earth is divided into Eastern and Western

Hemispheres. Locations in the Eastern Hemisphere are denoted with an E (or a

positive number), while locations in the Western Hemisphere are denoted with a W

(or a negative number). The Prime Meridian is 0°E or 0°W, and increases to toward

180°E (or +180) or 180°W (or -180).

Latitude and longitude are measured in degrees, minutes, and seconds. Similar to a

clock, where one hour equals 60 minutes, and one minute equals 60 seconds, each

degree of latitude or longitude can be divided into 60 minutes (60’) and each

minute of latitude or longitude can be further subdivided into 60 seconds (60”). For

example, the White House in Washington, DC is located at 38° 53’ 51” N, 77° 02’


11” W. Latitude and longitude can also be measured in decimal degrees, or degrees

and decimal minutes, by converting the minutes and/or seconds into decimal

fractions. Cardinal directions (North, East, South and West) are replaced with

positive or negative signs. Therefore, the absolute location of the White House in

decimal degrees would be 38.8976, -77.0365.

Click Exit Street View in the top right corner of the Google Earth 3D viewer.

Change your units to degrees, minute and seconds. (Refer to the GETTING

STARTED lab module for directions on how to change latitude and longitude


Double-click and select Location A.

Question 5: What are the latitude and longitude coordinates for Location A?

A. 51N, 114E

B. 114S, 51 E

C. 51S, 114W

D. 51N, 114W

Double-click and select Location B.

Question 6: What are the latitude and longitude coordinates for Location B?

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