From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Maps (Rated Start-class, High-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Maps, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Maps and Cartography on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 High  This article has been rated as High-importance on the project's importance scale.

Mergefrom survived[edit]

This page was voted to stay separate in the 'mergeto proceding' closed this date

--- {{Mergefrom|Geomorphometry|Talk:Topography#Merge_with_Geomorphometry|date=December 2006}} removed per


--- vote tallies 4 Opposed to the nom's lone: 1 // FrankB 00:23, 12 May 2007 (UTC)

  • All is finis // FrankB 00:57, 12 May 2007 (UTC)


Topography isn't really similar at all to topology —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 22:48, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

In geography, the nature of topography determines topology. SCmurky 05:26, 15 July 2006 (UTC)


Please discuss today's changes to article here: ... - Ballista 17:06, 19 September 2006 (UTC)

The article on Topography prior to the changes of 19 Sep 2006 was - in my opinion - using the term "topography" merely to illustrate what were in fact aspects of geography: if you like he/she was making "topography" serve as a word for "practical geography".
So, for me to understand what has been long understood by "topography" I asked myself, "what is a topographer? What does an acknowledged topographer DO?"
In my submission, this - the work accepted as the work of a topographer - has to be what is accepted as "topography".
Perhaps you would like to look out 10 recognized topographers' work, and see what it is?
If well educated members of society accepts them as topographers, I will accept their work as topography.
NB. The person who talks of "the LAY of the land" is NOT an educated person. That howler was eventually put right in Wikipedia too late for Google to give Wikipedia credit. Google still quotes Wikipedia's egregious solecism.
PS I think I will claim to be a Typo-ographer: one who cannot avoid "TYPOs". PPS. Why did someone bring up "Topology" ?
—The preceding unsigned comment was added by Mentorsmentor (talkcontribs) 17:34, 19 September 2006 (UTC).
I'll make no comment on your opinion. However, what is unacceptable is to erase the previous article completely and substitute only your opinion. You should be able to back up your additions with citeable references - please do so. Unsupported material is subject to deletion on Wikipedia, I'm afraid. Please take the trouble to read some of Wikipedia's policies and do your best to abide by them. (By the way, you sign comments by typing three or four tildes like this ~~~ or ~~~~ Thanks. WLD 18:58, 19 September 2006 (UTC)

Multiple meanings/original meanings/expert rewrite needed?[edit]

I don't know why added {{Expert}} and {{update}} to this article or why removed them, but to me the main problem was that parts of it assumed "topography = relief = contour lines". I have added a paragraph to this article and another to topographic map about the original use of the terms, but more needs to be done. The three articles on topography, topographic map and contour line all need to be revised, with some information moved from one article to another (for example, the rules of Vs and Os should be in contour line, and topography should have as little as possible about maps). This needs input from people with a wide range of experience who know things such as: what is on a topographic map of Holland, the history of the study of topography in France, the way that military instructors use the word topography, the approximate dates when in various countries topography started to mean just relief. Information from land surveyors and cartographers who produce these maps would help. JonH 12:30, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

Alternate view[edit]

The Alternate view section at first struck me as a joke, but reading it, maybe it is serious. I can't really tell. In any case, it could use some major copy editing, couldn't it? I'm not even sure what it is about or what it is an alternate to. Some links other than a bio? Intriguing but more confusing than helpful... Pfly 19:52, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

This page really needs to be merged from two competing articles into one, and it also needs references. -- Beland 13:31, 4 November 2006 (UTC)

Boy this still needs reworking[edit]

How about "topography" as mostly a disambiguation page leading to: relief (cartography), topographic survey, topographic map (?) and topographic writing? Seems like even here we begin separating topography from the simplistic "topogaphy=relief" to the more complex "lie of the land (i.e. the full feature set of a topo map including landmarks and land cover)" and then in the details go right back to topography=relief. A lot of the article should be moved under relief. [Relief_%28disambiguation%29] suggests the cartographic meaning have its own entry. -- Natcase, 0600 UTC, 9 November 2006

Makes sense to me, the word "topography" goes off in so many directions, perhaps best to have the plain Topography page be a disambiguate one, if there are sufficient other pages to disambiguate to, anyway... Pfly 07:45, 9 November 2006 (UTC)
I agree something needs to be done, and perhaps separate pages are the way to go. But I think it is good for readers to realize that the meanings are related and are not completely separate. For example, if you read somewhere that "topography is critical militarily" it may refer to relief (which affects visibility) or it may refer to things like swamps and woodland (which impede movement), so you need to be aware of both variations of the meaning. JonH 14:24, 9 November 2006 (UTC)
I'm thinking a disambiguation page that talks in somewhat more detail about the evolution of the term. And maybe also bring in the term "terrain" to clarify the difference between the thing itself and the depiction of it (as with hydrology and hydrography). So in brief:
  • topography as a historic term, referencing topographic writing (keep much of the existing topo writing section from current article)
  • topographic survey referred to a separate article, with brief discussion of early use of term
  • relief/terrain, referring to separate article(s) on terrain itself and its cartographic depiction
  • distinguish topology and topography
Am I missing something? -- Natcase, 1500 UTC, 9 November 2006
Perhaps I misunderstood you. I thought you meant one of those disambiguation pages that just says "Topography may refer to: Topography (relief), Topography (surface features), Topography (history), ..." which emphasizes the separateness of the topics. But I would be happy with an article in summary style that says "see Topography (relief) for more information". By the way, I think the "textual description" section could be made a lot shorter; parts of it duplicate the John Leland article.

Maybe its just me, but I think you people are making it far too complicated. I'm taking the Earth Science Regents this year, and we went over topography. In fact, I should be doing my lab report on it right now, but I chose to go on Wikipedia instead. =] As I was saying, I think there should be a far more simpler introduction to this. Of course I would do it myself, but I don't know anything about how wikipedia articles work and I don't want to end up destroying the article. I'll post my proposed introduction when i have the time. -- 22:57, 9 November 2006 (UTC)

OK, here goes:

Next: bring in Shading/hachure/DEM/contour refs to #3, edit down text part of topography, links (started in on this, hitting cartography. Natcase, 600 UTC, 16 November 2006

That's a great improvement. -- JonH 12:44, 16 November 2006 (UTC)


I find Category:Topography and Category:Topography stubs rather puzzling. It is hard to see what meaning of topography is common to the articles that are listed. JonH 10:42, 10 November 2006 (UTC)

Agreed. Maybe we need to rename that terrain or three-dimensional geography or something. I'm out of time for now. My next project is bird's eye view, which is also sorely lacking...--Natcase 16:31, 17 November 2006 (UTC)

I've begun reworking the topography category. Please come over and discuss at Category_talk:Topography--Natcase 07:19, 24 November 2006 (UTC)

Major copy editing[edit]

I've started to rewrite the intro (credit, refs, etc...). I've created new sections (i.e. Topography representations, Tools and Topography in other fields). I've also created Topography (disambiguation) and added some references so that the above issue is solved. Please contribute or comment. -- Szvest Ω Wiki Me Up ® 17:47, 21 November 2006 (UTC)

Interesting approach, and some good stuff. Thanks for the references... not my strongest suit! What I am trying to get away from, however, is making topography the basic place to talk about the shape of landforms. My contention is that the word topography used primarily for this branch of geography/cartography, etc., is primarily an American usage, which has gained a foothold elsewhere because of the dominance of American GIS, etc. I would suggest that we put the bulk of the discussion of terrain under "Terrain", or under some other more universally specific term. That was the goal of my reworking last week. I want to push "topography" out of central usage and bring in more specific terms where possible as titles/categories. We would leave topography mainly as disambiguation, with some discussion of the older, (at the time) less ambiguous meaning of "description of place." I welcome further discussion.--Natcase 04:42, 22 November 2006 (UTC)

It's a good thing to know that the word topography is primarly an American usage. However, i don't see the need of putting the bulk of the discussion of terrain under "Terrain" as that would make things more confusing. Whatever the case is, i believe the article in its actual version reflects and presents the universal usage. Please comment. -- Szvest Ω Wiki Me Up ® 12:50, 22 November 2006 (UTC)
I'm honestly curious where topography is the general term for study of landforms... I know it is, but I wonder where it's coming from. GIS? ESRI usage? USGS? I 'm thinking there may be some variance among the various "geo-fields". I don't hear it a lot in cartographic circles (I'm a US cartographer); there I hear "relief" as the dominant term, both for above-water and underwater terrain. I have the sense "terrain" is the usual term in visualization circles. I notice "land surface" has its own article which appears to duplicate a lot of what is currently under both topography (article and category) and terrain (my new article). If we go with topography, let's create a separate article like "topography (study of place)", and then fold in "land surface" and "terrain."
I'd also like to better distinguish study of the landforms themselves and the representation of those landforms. This is one of the reasons I find "topography" problematic for the former: the "graph" implies representation, and that is a distinct field from the morphological study of the landforms themselves. Thoughts? JonH, any ideas?--Natcase 20:29, 22 November 2006 (UTC)
I see what you mean Natcase. I am not sure about all the usages all over the world. However, the etymology section could sort this out → (τόπος (topos, place) and -γραφία (-graphia, writing)). The words place and writing are quite explicit. In other words, Topography isn't the study of landforms itself but it is more about its graphical representation on a map by the use of contour lines, etc. Topographers are not scientists but they are rather (maybe not often) considered engineers. These are the available definitions i could find:
  • Topography is the shape or configuration of the land, represented on a map by contour lines, hypsometric tints, and relief shading. Center for Geographic Information
What you are referring to, i believe is Geomorphology (etymology: γη, ge, meaning Earth, and μορφή, morfé, meaning form).
As for Terrain, you can read there that Topography has recently become an additional synonym of Terrain, though in many parts of the world it retains it original more general meaning of description of place. This "description of place" means simply that it is done by graphical representations which generally are Cartographic Relief Depictions (maps w/ contour lines, hypsometric tints, and relief shading).
So let's summarize this
  • Terrain: From French for land or groung, From Vulgar Latin terranum, From Latin terrenum. 1. ground or land. 2. Area of the surface with a distinctive geological character (i.e rock formation). 3. The characteristic features of a tract of land's surface; topography.
  • Study of landforms is simply Geomorphology.
  • Geomorphology is simply the discipline that answer this question: Why do landscapes look the way they do?
  • The definition of Topography becomes than the graphic representation of the landform (i.e. Terrain) on a map by the use of contour lines, hypsometric tints, and relief shading. You can say that it is the graphical representation of a Terrain that can serve for Geomorphological and Geographical studies, planning and reclamation projects as in civil engineering and public works, construction, etc... This can be achieved by Surveying, Photogrammetry, Aerial photography, etc... -- Szvest Ω Wiki Me Up ® 13:41, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

I think we're very close to a common sense here: Geomorphology is the study of landforms, particularly in their formation processes. The goeomrphology course I took in college was under the geology department, but it's really a field halfway between geology and physical geography. It would, I think, make sense to put a common category/home/system in place for what is currently under the topography category, esp. the stubs.

Your final definition of topography as "graphic representation" makes some sense to me, but we would then be flying in the face of common (vague) usage. I think that geomorphology is the study of landform creation, that topography is the study of and recording of landforms in their present form, and that cartographic relief depiction (awkward I know, but there isn't a common term in the field) is the graphic depiction of that information.

This morning's realization: the reason for the sudden new use of the term is that the recording of relief data and its graphic expression have in the last few decades separated into two fields, like GIS and cartography. We may step on each others toes, but, well, there you are.

We then should pull out a separate article for topography (study of place). This is different from study of landforms, as place includes many non-landform aspects: built, vegetative, cultural, etc. I think by separating that out as a separate article will clarify things a great deal.


  • Topography (main article) is about the study of landforms, referencing geomorphology, the study of landform formation. Also reference Cartographic relief depiction, which is related but separate. Separate article about topography (study of place), incorporating the historical usage.
  • Terrain is where landforms themselves are discussed; much of the current article can be folded back into topography. Fold in land surface article and refer links.
  • Topography (category) is reorganized to group sets of existing articles into (1) aspects of topographic study, such as bathymetry and prominence and (2) terrain/landform types
  • edit referring links to topography to (where appropriate) re-refer to terrain. Mo9st links are now on the order of "Nepal's topography is mountainous," which is like saying "Winston Churchill's biography was over 80 years long and full of excitement."

SOund like a plan?--Natcase 17:16, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

I believe that we've arrived to the top of the hill. We see things much more clearer now and i find what you say as excellent. I had had one objection (i.e. confusion between terrain and topography) which is sorted out now after you said that it relates more to landforms (as an object) than to a technique. So, i totally agree now. We can move forward according to the above. One more thing i agree w/ is the current version of the article. I'll try to do some tweakings to the layout instead. Good job. -- Szvest Ω Wiki Me Up ® 11:04, 24 November 2006 (UTC)

Yesterday, I gathered my some my thoughts, and started to write them down. I find that overnight the article has improved, but my thoughts may still be useful.

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia not a dictionary, so its articles should describe concepts and not words. On the other hand, it is necessary to choose words for the article names and to agree what the articles are trying to describe. I like it when an article says "some people think X, other people think Y" without saying one group is "wrong"; I assume such cases are the result of editors arguing and then reaching a consensus.

As far I can see, the main development of the word is:

  • "writing about a place"
  • extension to include people and history
  • the representation of a place by a map or picture
  • emphasis on features of military significance
  • emphasis on (and restriction to) the vertical dimension

I think this development is interesting in itself, as well as useful to readers for the purpose of disambiguation. I liked the rewriting by Natcase because it explicitly explained some of this drift in meaning (I did not previously know that the USGS had a distinction between topographic and planimetric maps). The information is still there, but instead of being all at the beginning, it had become split up throughout the article.

I am in England, and am aware of the following present-day uses of the word:

  • Some old-fashioned second-hand bookshops have a "Topography" section for books about counties and towns, and also for old pictures showing locations.
  • Maps are hardly ever referred to as "topographic". Instead of a "topo" map, people may talk about an "OS" (or "Ordnance Survey") map.
  • There are phrases like "the village was located here because of the topography"; it is not always clear if this just refers to the relief or to other features.
  • In some technical contexts topography means relief (e.g. an archaeologist wanting "a topographic survey" - the measurement of height at 1-metre intervals to detect buried features under grass).

I looked up "topography" in every printed dictionary I could, and did not find any special mention of the vertical dimension. The definitions usually include the extension to the features of a location, as well as their description. The description is usually "detailed" and only "surface" features are included (this would seem to exclude the description of a whole continent or underground geology).

Note these quotations:

JonH 14:35, 24 November 2006 (UTC)

Thanks, all. Wow, a civilized discussion leading to a rewrite. I've clearly spent too long reading the revisewars over Greek/Turkish topics. Aiee.

I'm done with my rewrite. JonH, I think that much of what you add could be incorprated into the new Topography as the study of place article. Go for it!

I'm tackling the topography category now... any help and advice there would be welcome. --Natcase 17:17, 24 November 2006 (UTC)

Merge with Geomorphometry[edit]

There it was, hidden away in a dark corner, the unambiguous term we were looking for: Geomorphometry. I feel like I want to move this whole %$!@ing article there. What a word!--Natcase 05:09, 8 December 2006 (UTC)

  • Opppose -- No, please do not merge topography with whatever that other word was. The term is a complex one and its complexity is increased by the fact that it is evidently one (of many) word(s) that is differently used by speakers of British English and by speakers of American English. For those of us not specialist in this field, conflating two related but distinct concepts under a single entry simply adds a layer of gratuitous complexity. (For many of the specialists the basic issue of definition is presumably less of a challenge in the first place.) Regards 10:48, 2 January 2007 (UTC)Charles01
  • Oppose -- Please don't merge!!!!! —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 14:43, 1 March 2007 (UTC)
  • Oppose -- From Mentorsmentor 27 March 2007.

Some thoughtful and excellent observations above. We must be more careful with our words! I do not refer to rank illiteracy which has no place here, but the care needed with DEFINITION.

For example, I think of where places in the world are as being to do with GEOGRAPHY;

and the study of the general constitution of the ground beneath our feet and the study of the distribution or occurrence of the strata or layers that make up that ground is GEOLOGY;

while a closer examination of the make-up or origin or sources of any particular stratum or layer (e.g., chalk, coal &c. is GEOMORPHOLOGY (= the morphology of each of the layers).

I do NOT agree that "alternate" = "alternative". We use alternate legs for walking and running and we have no alternative (= other option) way of running or walking.
I do not think anyone should be in this discussion who has not read WINCHESTER, S. "The Map That Changed the World" ;Viking 2001; Penguin 2002; ISBN O-140-28039-1 Mentorsmentor 08:11, 27 March 2007 (UTC)

  • Oppose -- Concur with all but nom and that last statement by Mentorsmentor -- That's a bit narrow a qualification -- surely someone else wrote an near-equivalent book! <g> I've tabulated the votes, and am calling the question.

    Tallies: 1-Merge 4- Oppose. // FrankB 00:23, 12 May 2007 (UTC)
MERGE VOTE CLOSED per above tally... 
pulling Tagging templates from pages. // FrankB 00:35, 12 May 2007 (UTC)

Hmm, that's not right...[edit]

Search for "poop." Looks like someone thought that'd be funny.. Maybe someone would know what the word was meant to be? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:01, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

Topography is a mathematical concept[edit]

Topography is not simply a geography concept. It is a generalized mathematical concept used to indicate the patterned or general organization of features on any map. THis is especially true in artificial intelligence or the analysis of brain function. In these cases we talk about the topographic organization of feature maps, and other uses also related to mapping of brain surface Basically if a surface map has patterns on it, one can speak of topography of the surface The usage of the word topography as the detailing of patterns for geometric objects generally is recognized in other encyclopedias and requires a subheading here . These usages are distinct from topology which usually details the connectedness and archetypal nature of the space, rather than the surface organization of values for a particular function or the distribution of variables in a space. Mrdthree (talk) 02:29, 12 October 2010 (UTC)

Surface Geology - propose split[edit]

I think what this article is trying to be about is "Surface Geology", particularly in reference to planetary science. There is no wiki article for that topic. Topography refers specifically to relief. I propose a split of the article into the two topics or at least a redirect handled appropriately.--EvenGreenerFish (talk) 02:49, 9 February 2012 (UTC)