Cumberland Times-News

February 2, 2013

Here’s what you can learn from an Atlas

Bob Doyle, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— When I was in the primary elementary grades, one of my favorite books was a World Atlas. I still value these marvelous collections of maps, even though I have not traveled widely.

So my column today will consider a student atlas and an Earth reference book (an atlas plus much more information on different regions of the world).

The National Geographic Student Atlas of the World is now in its third edition, a new edition coming out about every 4 years. This edition was published in 2009 with ISBN 978-1-4263-4460 and costs about $13.

As most comprehensive atlases, the opening pages deal with the Earth’s place in the universe.

There is a wonderful graphic showing all the planets (eight regular planets and five dwarf planets) scaled to size next to an arc of the edge of the sun.

Another interesting section is the explanation of the different kinds of world maps from Azimuthal (lines of latitude are circles) to the Winkel Tripel where distortion of size and shape are minimized.

There is a world map of all the time zones, showing some countries which are not a whole number of hours behind or ahead of Greenwich England (Universal Time).

Iran has its clocks set 3.5 hours ahead of Greenwich, Afghanistan has its clocks 4.5 hours ahead of Greenwich. All of China’s clocks are set to Beijing time, eight hours ahead of Greenwich. Russia, the world’s largest country stretches over 10 time zones (from three hours ahead to 12 hours ahead of Greenwich).

Looking at the population maps and statistics, India presently has 19 urban centers, each with 10 million people or more.

Ninety-seven percent of Earth’s water is salty with most of the remaining water trapped in glaciers and ice caps and water too far underground to be tapped.

If all of the world’s water was represented by a gallon jug, slightly more than a teaspoon would be fresh water.

How is water used by the developed versus the underdeveloped world?

In the developed countries of the world, 30 percent of water use is for agriculture, 59 percent by industry and 11 percent for residential use.

In the underdeveloped countries, agriculture consumes 82 percent of their water (mainly irrigation in dry lands), 10 percent of water by industry and 8 percent for residential.

The second atlas is titled “All of the Earth” published by Millennium House in 2009 and reprinted in 2010. The chief consultant is Charles F Gritzner. The ISBN is 978-1-921209-50-5.

An interesting point is that on the Hawaiian island of Maui, by going from a mountain top down to the sea, one can experience nearly all of the Earth’s major ecosystems within a few miles.

There is a nice treatment of the development of cartography from the earliest world maps to modern mapmaking assisted by satellite imagery.

Cartography is one of the concentrations offered by our Geography Department at Frostburg State.

The section on Earth’s Vital Statistics is full of worldrecords and top 10 lists.

While Lake Baikal has the largest volume of fresh water (5,700 cubic miles), Lake Superior is the fresh water lake with the largest area (31,820 square miles). The reason for this paradox is the greater depth of Lake Baikal.

It is interesting that Africa has the records for the most and least annual precipitation. A place in Cameroon (close to the Equator on Africa’s west coast) averages 405 inches of rainfall per year.

Data was collected for 32 years. A town in the Sudan (below Egypt in eastern Africa) averages less than 0.1 inch of rain per year. Data was collected for 39 years.

For each of the six inhabited continents, there is a section featuring descriptions of all the major countries in addition to detailed maps for each of the continental regions.

I will be resuming my Animal Talks today at 4 p.m. Each Sunday at 4 p.m. in February, I will do a half hour presentation on Bears, from Arctic regions to the Tropics.

The talks are given in the auditorium of the Science Discovery Center just off the first floor lobby of the Compton Science building.

Afterwards, visitors may tour the Cavallaro Collection of animals from five continents. These talks are free and open to the public.

SKY SIGHTS AHEAD: We are now about half way through winter. The evening sky features the best winter star groups (Orion and friends) and some spring star groups in the east. The moon is now in the morning (a.m.) sky.

The brightest point of light is the planet Jupiter, seen above and to the right of Orion.

The Big Dipper is high in the north with its scoop pouring soup on us. The two end stars of the Big Dipper’s scoop point left and down to the North Star, a rather modest star positioned about halfway up in the north.

The Dipper’s two stars that point left to the North Star also point right to the sickle of Leo, the Lion. Some people see the sickle as a backward question mark.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at rdoyle@frostburg.edu . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.