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Types of Maps

There are lots of types of maps that people use for different purposes. Some maps help people find their way around new cities. Others are only used by trained professionals, like scientists. Each type of map serves a different purpose, but they all show the Earth in their own way. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of maps! 
 An illustration of the world showing only political lines.

Political Maps

Political maps are maps that don’t show the physical features of the Earth. Instead, these maps show the political boundaries of states and countries. A political map sometimes shows large cities labeled, especially capital cities. An example of a political map is a map of the United States with all the states outlined. 
 

Political maps are important because they can help you learn about different countries. For example, if you are wondering where the country of Vietnam is you can look at a political map of Asia, or of the world. A political map of the United States can help you learn where all the different states are. 

An illustration of a U.S. Political map.

This map of the US is a political map because it shows state boundaries and no physical features.

City and Street Maps

City and street maps are helpful maps for navigating new places. These maps are widely used by everyday people to figure out how to get somewhere. These maps show major roads and locations, like airports, museums, and parks. Sometimes street maps show one city, but they can show bigger areas too, like the entire United States. 
 

You can use street maps to figure out how to drive somewhere and make sure you don’t get lost if you are in a new place. Today, city and street maps aren’t used as much because lots of people have GPS maps on their phones. Many years ago, people didn’t have phones with GPS and had to rely on road maps to not get lost. 

An illustration of a city map.

City maps show the roads and important places in a city.

Topographic Maps

Topographic maps show the physical features of a place on Earth. These maps have special lines called contour lines. When the lines are closer together, it shows that the land is steep (like the side of a mountain). When the lines are far apart the land is flatter. 
 

Lots of people use topographic maps, like hikers, scientists, and construction workers. It is important for these people to know where there are mountains and valleys in the land. 

An illustration of a topographic map.

The squiggly lines on a topographic map show mountains and valleys.

Climate Maps

Climate maps show the climates of different places on the map. The term climate includes the amount of rain a place gets and the average temperature. These maps can also show other aspects of climate, like how much it snows. Usually, climate maps use colors to show the different kinds of climates in the area. 
 
Climate maps often show the different biomes present in an area. A biome is a place in nature with a specific climate. Learn more about the different biomes at the Types of Biomes article. 

 

An illustration of a biome map.

This climate map shows the different biomes around the world.

Geologic Maps

A geologic map shows the geological features of the Earth. These features include tectonic plates, plate boundaries, and different kinds of rocks. Geologic maps help scientists predict earthquakes and study Earth’s history. Visit this website to find a geologic map of California! 

Other Great Resources

Types of Maps: http://mocomi.com/types-of-maps/

ThoughtCo on different types of maps: https://www.thoughtco.com/types-of-maps-1435689

Examples of different kinds of maps: https://www.mapsofworld.com/world-maps/types-of-map.html

 

Written By: Leah Tolby