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Department of Special Education


Position on the Earth’s Surface

Location is the most basic of the fundamental themes. Every geographical feature has a unique location—its global address. A number of geographic factors give significance to a location. A rich geography lies beyond location, yet the concept of location is crucial to geographical understanding. Location is a basic prerequisite to higher-level geography, just as addition and subtraction are basic prerequisites to advanced mathematical understanding and competency.

Absolute Location

Absolute site has a fixed location on the planet. The most common way of identifying its location is by longitude and latitude coordinates.

Using Grids:  Every site has a unique location on planet Earth (or in space). Location can be defined in relation to a reference grid, such as longitude and latitude, or perhaps an alphanumeric grid.

Different Types of Maps and Globes:  Maps and globes can be used to find location, but they also show other geographic elements such as pattern and process. Thematic maps provide the location and distribution of a factor: population, economic systems, climate zones, political divisions, and settlement patterns. Road maps and navigational charts show the routes for travel from one location to another.

Map Projections:  Map projections are necessary to transfer information from a spherical Earth to a two-dimensional map sheet. The process of map projection often leads to distortion in distance (size), direction, or shape.

Earth-Sun Relations:  The Earth’s movement and position relative to the Sun is important in determining climate, seasons, and time zones. Key concepts include solstices, equinoxes, tilt of the axis, daily rotation, and annual revolution.

Relative Location

Relative location is a way of expressing a location in relation to another site. For example, Peoria, Illinois, is 125 miles southwest of Chicago, or Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, or the Rocky Mountains are between Denver, Colorado, and Salt Lake City, Utah, or Canada is north of the United States.

Locations Have Geographical Explanations:  Why are certain features or places located where they are? Relative location can be explained in terms of locational factors of history, economics, or other physical or human factors.

The Importance of a Location Can Change with History:  Even though the absolute location has not changed, its relative importance may have increased or decreased because of its changing role in local, national, or world affairs.

Comprehension Check

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