Geography: GED Test Prep (page 2)
In the geography section of the GED Social Studies Exam, you will be asked to answer questions relating to both physical geography (the features of the Earth's surface) and cultural geography (the way humans relate to their physical environment)
The Geography section of the GED Social Studies Exam will cover many areas, including topography (landforms), climate, culture, and population distribution. This section will also test your ability to use and understand maps. Many questions will use a photograph, map, chart, table, or other source to present material.
Physical geography studies the features of the earth's surface. This branch of geography looks at climate, plant and animal life, bodies of water, and landforms. Maps are the most important tool of geography. Topographical maps give details about land. They show different elevations above and below sea level. Globes and world maps show oceans, seas, and the seven continents of the planet. Political maps show countries' borders, capitals, and major cities. Other common types of maps include road maps, climate maps, population maps, and contour maps (which show changes in elevation).
Reading and Understanding Maps
Intersecting lines that form a grid help locate specific areas on a world map. Lines of latitude run parallel to the equator, an imaginary line that runs east and west. The equator is at 0° latitude. It divides the globe into two halves, called the northern and southern hemispheres. Lines of longitude run parallel to the prime meridian, an imaginary line that runs north and south through Greenwich, England. The prime meridian is at 0° longitude. It divides the globe into two halves, called the eastern and western hemispheres. To find a specific location on the globe, look for the point where its latitude and longitude intersect. For example, you can find the western portion of Brazil if you are given its coordinates as 45° west longitude and 10° south latitude.
Landform is the name we give to a specific feature of the Earth's surface. Landforms are defined by their shape, their location, and type of terrain of which they are constituted. The table lists landforms with which you should be familiar.
Climate describes the atmosphere of a region over a long period of time. It includes rainfall, humidity, wind, and other elements. A region's climate is most affected by its latitude. Broad areas, called climatic zones, lie along latitudinal lines between the equator and the North and South poles. The tropical zone includes all land and water that falls between two imaginary lines called the Tropic of Cancer (23.5° north latitude) and the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5° south latitude). The tropics—hot, wet, with little seasonal change—contain the world's largest rain forests. It also contains savanna and desert climates. Much of Africa, Central America, the Caribbean, South America, Southeast Asia, and India are part of the tropical zone.
The temperate zones lie between the tropics and the polar circles. They are characterized by four seasons, usually a hot summer, cold winter, and intermediate spring and fall. Much of North America, Europe, Russia, China, and the Middle East are found in the northern temperate zone. Australia and the southern part of South America fall within the southern temperate zone. The polar or arctic zones are the areas near the North and South poles. This zone is characterized by long, cold winters and short, cool summers. The Arctic Circle marks the region near the North Pole and the Antarctic Circle marks the area surrounding the South Pole.
One of the most important traits of a region—at least from the point of view of humans and other living beings—is the availability of resources that can sustain life and civilization. Water is the most important resource, because it is both essential to life and not universally available. Populations settle around bodies of water, which serve not only as sources of drinking water but also as transportation routes and sources of power. Given its importance, it is not surprising that many wars have been fought over the control of waterways.
The resources available to an area play a major role in how that area develops. In the nineteenth century, the American south relied on its climate, its fertile soil, and the availability of land to develop into a major agricultural producer. The northeast, on the other hand, utilized its large population and easy access to trade routes with Europe to develop into an industrial power. Each region developed in the direction to which its geographic characteristics were better suited. In this way, geographic characteristics such as climate and natural resources are major factors in the development of a region's, and country's, economy. Areas with abundant natural resources can become very wealthy, while areas with relatively few natural resources will have a hard time developing beyond a subsistence level. Much of the Arabian Peninsula consists of desert land, where water is scarce and growing crops is difficult. This would be a major impediment to economic growth if not for the fact that the region is home to vast supplies of oil, which the world's rich industrial nations need in great quantities. As a result, countries on the Arabian Peninsula have a means to accrue wealth despite a shortage of some essential natural resources.
Resources are not limitless. Improperly managed, resources can be depleted. Conservationists are people who work to persuade others to use resources wisely. They champion recycling, the reuse of materials, and sustainable resource use, which means using resources in a way that they won't run out. For example, sustainable resource use might call for planting trees whenever trees are harvested for lumber. Conservationists also campaign for protection of endangered plants and species, arguing that as stewards of the planet it is our responsibility to maintain biodiversity. Conservationists also note that all plants and creatures serve a purpose in the biosphere, the portion of the Earth inhabited by living creatures. Because we cannot predict how the elimination of one plant or species might impact others that depend on it, we must be careful about our impact.
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