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Program Mysteries of the Unseen World (logo height 65 pix)

  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are computer-based systems used to collect, store, and display data related to positions on the Earth’s surface. Many data sets can be displayed on a single map or image. This helps organize and simplify the information, making it possible to analyze relationships and patterns among different types of data. GIS images can also be used to better understand complex data sets that occur over a range of time and space. One important use of GIS involves creating time-lapse images that show processes occurring over large areas and long periods of time. In time-lapse imagery, individual frames of visual data can be captured at a slower rate and then combined and viewed at a faster rate.


    For example, data showing the movement of water in ocean and atmospheric currents helps scientists better understand how moisture and heat energy move around the globe. These convection currents of air and water regulate local weather conditions and global climate patterns. Without the use of GIS imagery, it would be very difficult to understand how all of these complex processes interact or to make predictions about future weather and climate conditions. GIS technology can be used to track and display a number of other human-related activities and natural phenomena, including commercial shipping routes, habitat destruction, lightning strikes, population growth, and auroras. 

    1. Can existing two-dimensional maps be converted into data that can be used in new GIS applications? Explain. 

      Yes. To be used in a new GIS application, existing maps must be scanned and converted to digital information. Then the scale of the different data sources must be aligned.

    2. Interactive maps use GIS technology. List two types of interactive maps you have used before. 

      Answers vary but could include the following: using the mapping or navigation tool on a cell phone, using a handheld GPS device to navigate or mark waypoints, looking up political or geographic information online, National Geographic Education’s MapMaker Interactive.

    3. A large, warm-water current begins at the tip of Florida and travels along the eastern coast of the United States and Canada before crossing the North Atlantic Ocean. This current contributes to mild climate conditions along the west coast of Europe and helps regulate temperatures in Northern Europe. What is the name of this current?

      The Gulf Stream is the warm-water current that helps regulate climate along the coast of Europe.

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