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This is a set of flashcards for Road Scholar Science Olympiad. I will be adding more flashcards as new terms come up. Some of the definitions are from the Road Scholar worksheets from National Science Olympiad, © 2005.


the science of mapping


four sided figure

neat lines

the boundaries of quadrangle maps. make the maps look 'neat'.

prime meridian

zero degrees longitude. also known as the greenwich meridian.

7.5 minute quadrangle

cover land measuring 7.5 minutes of arc from north- south and from east-west. at a scale of 1:24000. covers from 49-70 square miles.


north- south. read before longitude.


east- west. read after latitude.

quadrangle name

appears in the upper right corner. may be named after a prominent city, feature, or town. most of that feature must lie within the quadrangle for the quad to be named after it. the state name is also here.


appears in the upper right corner. refers to the mapped area in degrees, minutes, and seconds.


appears in the upper right corner. tow types of type: topographic and planimetric.

topographic type

shows the shape and elevation of the land

planimetric type

does not show the shape and elevation of the land but the horizontal orientation and natural and manmade (cultural) features.

title block

in the lower right margin. shows the name of the quad, the abbreviation of the state, and the year of latest revision.

plant imprint note

located in lower right margin. includes the name of the government department responsible for making the map and the name and location of the printing plant. the location above is used of USGS maps.


located in the lower right margin. shows the classes of roads and route markers on the map.


( on 7.5 maps) expressed in two ways: a fixed ratio or direct proportional/ diagrammatic bar scales. both are found in the lower margin.

contour lines

fine, curving brown lines. the same elevation. Depict the shape and elevation of the land.

contour interval

the vertical difference between adjacent contour lines. this value is printed beneath the feet/ kilometer bars in the lower margin.

national map accuracy standards

in lower center margin. makes sure that a map complies with government standards. if this is not present then the map does not meet the standards.


the angular difference between true north and magnetic north.

graticule tick marks

help in mentally dividing the map into nine equal pieces called sectors.


nine equal parts of the map. they are numbered from left to right in three rows. do NOT confuse this term with section.

class 1 buildings

structures primarily meant for housing human activities. these are shown by a solid or crosshatch print.

class 2 buildings

NOT meant for housing human activities. depicted by an open outline or a single hatch, with the hatch running northeast- southwest (diagonal) direction.

landmark buildings

serve the community or have specific importance, so they are shown on maps.

major highways

shown in solid red.

other roads

parallel black lines.

secondary highways

red between white lines.

index contour lines

thick brown lines with elevations marked at frequent intervals.

intermediate contour lines

thin, light brown lines. in between the index contours.

depression contours

show depressions or pits in the land shown by closed contours with right angle tick marks pointing inward.

supplementary contours

shown on maps of flatter areas to show features less than the basic interval. shown as dashed or dotted lines.

cut and fill contours

shown conditions on large areas around roads that define the local terrain with less than a contour interval. shown by hachures along the contour.


shown by contours that form a successive 'v' or 'u' pattern.

perennial pond or stream

these bodies of water are always present except during major draughts. they are shown by solid blue lines or solid blue lines with light blue fill.

intermittent pond or stream

these contain water only during a certain part of the year. the streams are shown by blue dashes separated by three blue dots. the lakes are shown by a solid blue outline filled with light blue diagonal hatching. the ponds are shown by a dashed blue outline filled with light blue diagonal hatching.

rule of the v's

the phrase that refers to the shape that a contour line has when it passes through a stream. the point of the 'v' points upstream.

control data

these marks or symbols identify latitude and longitude, elevation or all.

horizontal control station marks

marks for which latitude and longitude have been determined. on quad maps they are shown as black outlined triangles with a dot in the center or the same as above plus the letters 'BM' (meaning bench mark) and the elevation. on actual site it is a metal tablet or other permanent type marks.

vertical control station marks

marks the place where elevation has been determined. on USGS topo maps this is shown by a black 'x' and labeled 'BM' for bench mark. the elevation is written in black numbers. on actual ground they are metal tablets or other permanent marks.

spot elevation

less accurate than bench marks but more accurate than contour lines. Unless the locations are obvious, like a road intersection, these will be marked by small blacks 'x's with the elevation printed in black slanted type. (this is for topo maps) number values of spot elevations which have not been accurately surveyed are printed in brown.

water surface elevation

these are for large lakes and reservoirs. they are based upon the normal level of water. the elevations of these bodies of water are printed in black slanted type within the body of water on the map. max. water depths are shown in blue slanted type.

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