Exploring Our World: People, Places, and Cultures
Using Geography Skills
Geography is the study of the Earth and its people. Physical geography examines physical aspects of the Earth such as land areas, bodies of water, and plant life. Human geography focuses on people and their activities such as religions, languages, and ways of life. In their study of people and places, geographers use five themes: location, place, human-environment interaction, movement, and regions. People use the information provided by geographers to plan, make decisions, and manage resources.
In their study of Earth, geographers use many tools. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are computer systems that gather, store, and analyze geographic information and then display it on a screen. They can also make maps. The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a group of satellites that use radio signals to determine the exact location of places on Earth. Satellite images of the Earth taken from space can help geographers determine how the Earth is changing.
The Earth is one of eight planets in the solar system; it rotates on its axis every 24 hours and takes a year to orbit the sun. The tilt of the Earth in relation to the sun leads to changing seasons. Different hemispheres experience different temperatures and seasons because of their location in relation to the sun. The beginning of summer in one is the beginning of winter in the other. Similarly, the sun also affects Earth's temperatures. The sun's rays hit the low-latitude areas near the Equator directly, creating very warm temperatures. In the high latitudes of the North and South Poles, the sun's rays are indirect, so temperatures are always cold. Geographers use this knowledge of Earth's location in the solar system to understand how that location affects life on the planet.