Types of Maps: Population, Topographic, Weather, Political & World Maps

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  • 0:02 Types of Maps
  • 0:40 Topographic
  • 1:21 Political & Weather
  • 2:23 Population & World
  • 3:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will explain the different types of maps used to interpret and study our world. In doing this, it will focus on maps that deal in elevation, population, weather patterns and more.

Different Types of Maps

In the age of the Internet and smartphones, the art of map reading has sort of been lost. After all, why use one of those manyfold maps if you can just plug an address into a gadget? Although I, too, am guilty of choosing ease over having to refold those accordion-like things, the teacher in me thinks we're all missing out just a bit. For this reason, in a rather geeky way, I'm excited for today's lesson in which we're going to talk about a few of the different kinds of maps that help us decipher our world. To be more specific, we'll be discussing topographic, political, weather, population, and world maps.


Let's kick things off with topographic maps. Topographic maps show elevation or height above sea level. These maps are usually highly-detailed. Although most people usually just think of them showing how high a mountain is or how low a valley is, topographic maps also include the elevation of man-made structures, like the wall of China or the Hoover Dam. One way you can spot a topographic map is they usually come full of contour lines that seem to form irregular looking circles. If a map has very few places labeled on it but has dark shading for mountains, light shading for valleys, or vice versa, there's a good chance it's a topographic map.

Political & Weather

Our next type of map is a political one. Like you'd guess from the name, political maps show man-made government boundaries. They can be as detailed as labeling all the small little towns I live around, or as general as just labeling the countries and capitals of the world. This being said, you're usually looking at a political map if it has city, state, and country names plastered all over it. Oftentimes, they're rather brightly colored as each state or country gets its own color. Throwing a bit of a curve ball, they usually also label significant bodies of waters, like oceans.

Returning back to maps that focus on the natural world, we come to weather maps. Being really easy to figure out, weather maps show the weather of a given area. They display pressure systems, cloud cover, and precipitation. They let us know if we should wear a heavy coat or a light sweater, whether we should take our umbrella or leave it at home. Since I'm guessing most of us see a weather map almost every time we see or read the news, we'll wrap this one up and move on.

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