Understanding Geography

        Geography is the study of the earth’s inhabitants, characteristics, and events. It is divided into two major areas  human and physical geography. Physical geography focuses on the earth’s climate, land formations, soil, vegetation, and hydrology. Human geography encompasses the analyses of economies, communities, and intellectual systems in different regions (Rowntree, Lewis, Price, and Wyckoff 11). Geographers’ work primarily involves the collection, use, and analysis of objective data placed in the format of maps showing characteristics and features of the earth’s inhabitants and their surroundings. This geographic information affects multiple disciplines and people using that data for different purposes.    

        One major area of study in the field of physical geography is “cartography” or “mapmaking,” which involves the collection and display of spatial data. Overall, mapmaking is central to geography, since Geographers study various regions and use maps to conduct their research. Maps also provide critical information for other disciplines, as well as anyone interested in traveling from place to place. A map of our world, country, state, or city is more than just a picture; it is a precise image that enhances the understanding of different features in regions and places of interest.  

Since the 1960’s, geography has rapidly changed with the progression of the computer. The computer allows geographers to create and use programs that enable us to digitally produce maps. This brought forth the study of Geographical Information Systems, known as GIS. GIS is a “computer system capable of assembling, storing, manipulating, and displaying geographically referenced information, i.e. data identified according to their locations” (“What”). Even though most people have never heard of GIS, it is in their daily lives. For example, a map of a park could have been made with GIS, and a common person might have never noticed it.  Also, it is used to create the dynamic weather maps presented on the daily news.

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By using satellite imagery, Geographers can receive remote sensing or geospatial data, which are often processed in an automated, computer format, using GIS to create accurate maps containing pertinent data about features in the maps. Without an accurate, objective interpretation of a region and its features, mobility would be one vital area that would be hampered.  For example, in disaster response incidences, remote sensing data is used to provide critical information to responders about specific damaged areas affected by the disaster.  This type of objective data allows responders to rapidly assess areas where they need to focus their effort in ...

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