What is Geography? It means "to write about the Earth," derived from the Greek words geo (the Earth) and graphos (to write about). I have always loved geography, studying our world and its climates, habitats, and processes. Unfortunately many people think of geography just as studying country and state names. Geography covers so much more than that, including the Earth's physical environment and processes, as well as the people on the Earth and their activities. Geography is the most complementary of sciences, spanning physical and social science disciplines. Mapping helps us to understand and depict a variety of phenomena, from mineral deposits to population migrations to neural pathways in the brain. At NOAA, we get to do some of the most amazing geographical science in the world, including: studying the sun and its impacts on the Earth; weather modeling and forecasting; fish habitats and migration; coastal tide and water level monitoring; and measuring and defining the shape of the Earth.
Since starting at NGS in 2002 I have enjoyed learning about the history of NOAA and NGS, reading about it in special publications as well as viewing many of the historical photographs. I am amazed by the miles that surveyors have walked, sailed, flown, and driven while performing surveys to define the United States datums. The artistic ability manual cartographers displayed in creating maps and nautical charts from these surveys in the past is a thing of beauty. To explore these beautiful resources yourself, view and download historical geodetic control diagrams as well as historical maps and charts on NOAA websites.
Today, mapping has evolved, and geographic information systems (GIS) play a major role in managing, analyzing, and mapping geospatial data. GIS Day was founded to recognize this importance, and it is celebrated every year on the Wednesday of Geography Awareness Week. Also, this month NGS released the Beta NGS Map, a GIS that provides access to multiple datasets. From historical maps to the latest data visualization techniques, there’s plenty to celebrate for Geography Awareness Week.