Fields of Geography: Cartography, Hydrology & Meteorology

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  • 0:03 What Is Geography?
  • 0:30 Cartography
  • 1:28 Hydrology
  • 2:33 Meteorology
  • 3:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

In this lesson, we will discuss the subject of geography and explore three of the largest fields in geography: cartography, hydrology, and meteorology. Read on to learn about the major topics, professionals, and tools in each field.

What Is Geography?

Geography is the study of the earth's atmosphere and physical features. This includes natural features like mountains, rivers, beaches, valleys, and cliffs, as well as the way human activity has affected the earth. Geography is a huge subject, and it's broken down into fields and subfields. Let's talk about the three major fields of physical geography: cartography, hydrology, and meteorology.


Cartography is the study of maps, both their creation and interpretation. It involves drawing and aesthetic techniques, scale, and simplification. Historically, cartographers would travel on tall ships and use precise instruments to measure the land in front of them in order to create their maps. In modern times, cartographers use global positioning systems (GPS), satellite images, and radar distance measurements. However, they may still use pen-and-paper, lighting tables, rulers, protractors, and T-squares for rough drafts.

There are many types of maps, each with their own symbols. Political maps show what areas are owned by which countries. Topographical maps show physical terrain and elevation. Topological maps, which are less accurate sketch maps, are designed to show a particular route. On each of these maps, symbols are used to represent everything from buildings to roads to churches and bathroom facilities.


Hydrology is the study of the earth's water, including its motion and properties. This includes the water cycle, the distribution of water sources, water quality, and how water flows on top of the land and underneath. The water cycle is at the heart of hydrology and is the way water moves around the earth: how it evaporates, forms clouds, falls as rain onto the ground, follows rivers to lakes and seas, and evaporates all over again. Many other water-related topics are covered in hydrology: rivers, glaciers, evaporation, rainfall, chemical properties, drainage basins, pollution, and interaction with organisms. Just the subject of rivers is rich: how they affect land formations, how they dig deep into the earth, how they form lakes, and how they are related to human settlements - not to mention the ecology surrounding them.

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