David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.
Location Types in Geography
When people think of geography they tend to think about maps, countries, and learning capital cities. But this isn't all that geography is about. Geography is a subject that looks at the physical features of the Earth and its atmosphere: it studies the impact of nature on those physical features, how humans impact the Earth's physical features, and the way those physical features impact humans.
While geography might not be all about maps and places, location is still a major part of geography. Every topic studied in geography is examined with reference to location. For example, if you're studying how local businesses will be affected by building a new highway, part of your study might look at the location of the highway relative to those businesses. If you're exploring how mountains are growing in an area due to the collision of tectonic plates, you might consider the location of those plates and the location of the mountains being formed. Location is connected to both physical geography and human geography.
There are two ways to describe locations in geography: relative locations and absolute locations. This lesson describes these different types of location and the difference between the two.
Relative location is the position of a place as compared to another landmark. For example, you may look at the position of one city relative to another or the position of a bowling alley relative to the center of town. Let's say you're driving down the highway to spend a day at the beach, and you want to know how far it is to that beach. When a sign comes up telling you it's 30 miles away, that is a relative location. Similarly, when you say that you live on the West Coast of the United States, that location is relative to this particular body of land (i.e. the United States).
Absolute location describes the position of a place in a way that never changes, no matter your location. The location is identified by specific coordinates.
The most common coordinate system is longitude and latitude, which describes a specific place on the Earth's surface. It doesn't matter whether you are currently in New York City or Timbuktu, the longitude and latitude of London will always be the same. Longitude is the position of a place on the Earth east to west, measured in degrees. You can measure location on the Earth in degrees because the Earth is roughly spherical. Longitude is measured from a vertical line that goes through Greenwich, in the United Kingdom. West of that line is measured in degrees west, and east of that line is measured in degrees east. The opposite side of the world is 180° west or 180° east, while Greenwich itself is 0°. Latitude is the position of a place on the Earth north to south, measured in degrees. The equator is 0°, and other positions are measured in degrees north or degrees south. The North Pole is 90° north, and the South Pole is 90° south. Together, a latitude and longitude can describe any position on the Earth's surface.
Although longitude and latitude are the most common example, there's no reason we couldn't measure other things in the universe this way. For example we might measure the planets relative to the sun. The sun orbits the center of the galaxy at high speed, but in most of our diagrams we imagine the sun as being fixed in a single place. That makes the sun the origin of the solar system - a (0,0) coordinate from which everything else can be measured. When measuring the position of a planet relative to the sun, this could also be considered an absolute location because the position of that planet doesn't change depending on where you are personally located on Earth.
In reality, everything is a relative location, because we're zooming around our galaxy, and our galaxy is zooming towards the Andromeda galaxy, and our galaxy cluster is moving as well. Everything is relative when you reach the level of universal physics. However, if something can be used to reliably describe a location for all humans in a consistent way, we consider it to be an absolute location.
Location is a major part of geography, which is a subject that looks at the physical features of the Earth and its atmosphere. Even when we consider elements of human geography, we think about those things with reference to location. We might talk about the best location for a business or how the location of a new highway affects businesses and the humans who live in that area. In geography, location is always a factor.
There are two ways to describe location in geography: relative and absolute. A relative location is the position of something relative to another landmark. For example, you might say you're 50 miles west of Houston. An absolute location describes a fixed position that never changes, regardless of your current location. It is identified by specific coordinates, such as latitude and longitude. Longitude is the position of a place on the Earth east to west, measured in degrees. Latitude is the position of a place on the Earth north to south, measured in degrees.
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