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Office Hours. Tue: 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM Wed: 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM & 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM Thr : 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM Course Syllabus can be found at: / This lecture will be posted AFTER class at:

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Office hours

Office Hours

Tue: 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM

Wed: 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM & 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM

Thr: 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM

Course Syllabus can be found at:

This lecture will be posted AFTER class at:

Lesson 9

Lesson 9

Topographic Profiles

Hess, McKnight’s Physical Geography, 10 ed.


What is a topographic profile
What is a “topographic profile?”

  • Last week we discussed USGS topographic maps

    • 3D landscape on a 2D map

    • Use contour lines to connect equal elevation intervals

    • This is known as a “plain view” map

  • A topographic profile is literally a “side view” along a line drawn over the topographic map

    • They show changes in elevation along a line

Constructing a topographic profile
Constructing a Topographic Profile

  • On the topographic map, determine what profile you would like to measure

    • For this exercise & the homework, this is given as the line segment AB

  • If a computer program is not available, lay a piece of paper down along line AB

  • Start from point A: wherever a contour line intersects the edge of the paper, place a short tick mark AND write down the elevation

  • Continue along the line to point B

    • Along the way, mark wherever a mountain peak, valley, or stream is located

    • Also mark any other important features (roads, buildings, etc)

Constructing a topographic profile cont
Constructing a Topographic Profile, cont.

  • Next, transfer your paper with the tick marks, elevation, and features to a chart (will be provided)

  • Align your writing along the bottom of the chart

  • Start at point A: transfer your measurements along the X and Y-axis’ moving toward point B.

  • Connect the dots

  • Finish by adding the locations of mountain peaks, streams, roads ,etc.

Snowville topo

  • Using the Snowville topographic map from last week, construct a profile along line AB.

    • You may use your printout, or come up to the screen

    • The elevation at point A is 2093

    • The elevation at point B is 2085

    • Remember to draw both contour lines as “tick marks” AND important features

  • Once you are done, raise your hand and I will check your work

Snowville topo1

  • Let’s see how our hand-drawn profile compares to a computer-generated image.


Vertical exaggeration
Vertical Exaggeration

  • In our previous example, the y-axis intervals were the same as the elevation contours on the Snowville topographic map

  • In our case, the vertical scale we used matched the horizontal scale

    • The vertical scale was equal to the graphic scale which was given in the lower-left corner

  • This brings us to vertical exaggeration

Vertical exaggeration cont
Vertical Exaggeration, cont.

  • Vertical exaggeration is created to emphasizes differences in elevation and to show relief

    • e.g., when there is a large amount of V. E., small hills appear to be tall mountain peaks on the graph

Vertical exaggeration cont1
Vertical Exaggeration, cont.

  • To determine the amount of V. E., simply divide the horizontal distance (i.e., the denominator of the fraction/ratio) by the vertical distance 1” represents on the graph

Vertical exaggeration con t1
Vertical Exaggeration, con.t

  • For the Snowville topographic profile:

    • The scale of the topographic map was

      ½” = ~500’

      • Converting this and you have 1” = ~1000’

    • The vertical distance on the graph was

      • 1” = ~1000’

    • Divide the horizontal (scale) distance by the vertical distance:

      • = 1.0

      • Thus the V. E. is 1.0 X (or the same as the horizontal distance)