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Session 1: Understanding Functions of GIS

3.1 Why Use GIS?

3.1.1 Improve Organizational Integration
One of the main benefits of GIS is improved management of an organization and resources. A GIS
can link data sets together by common location data, such as addresses, which helps departments
and agencies share their data. y creating a shared database, one department can benefit from the
work of another! data can be collected once and used many times "#S$I, %&&'(.
3.1.2 Mae !etter "ecisions
)he old adage *better information leads to better decisions* is true for GIS. A GIS is not +ust an
automated decision making system but a tool to ,uery, analyze, and map data in support of the
decision making process. -or e.ample, GIS can be used to help reach a decision about the location
of a new housing development that has minimal environmental impact, is located in a low risk area,
and is close to a population center. )he information can be presented succinctly and clearly in the
form of a map and accompanying report, allowing decision makers to focus on the real issues rather
than trying to understand the data. ecause GIS products can be produced ,uickly, multiple
scenarios can be evaluated efficiently and effectively.
3.1.2 Mae Maps
-or simplicity/s sake, we often call GIS *mapping software.* 0e most often associate maps with
physical geography, but GIS is fle.ible enough to map any kind of terrain, even the human body.
GIS can map any data you wish. 1aking maps with GIS is much more fle.ible than traditional
manual or automated cartography approaches. A GIS creates maps from data pulled from
databases. #.isting paper maps can be digitized and translated into the GIS as well. )he GIS
based cartographic database can be both continuous and scale free. 1ap products can then be
created centered on any location, at any scale, and showing selected information symbolized
effectively to highlight specific characteristics. A map can be created anytime to any scale for
anyone, as long as you have the data. )his is important because often we say, *I see* to mean, *I
understand.* 2attern recognition is something human beings e.cel at. )here is a vast difference
between seeing data in a table of rows and columns and seeing it presented in the form of a map.
)he difference is not simply aesthetic, it is conceptual! it turns out that the way you see your data
has a profound effect on the connections you make and the conclusions you draw from it. GIS gives
you the layout and drawing tools that help present facts with clear, compelling documents.
3.1.3 #$e Future of GIS
1any disciplines can benefit from GIS techni,ues. An active GIS market has resulted in lower costs
and continual improvements in the hardware and software components of GIS. )hese
developments will, in turn, result in a much wider application of the technology throughout
government, business, and industry.
)hrough a function known as visualization, a GIS can be used to produce images 3 not +ust maps,
but drawings, animations, and other cartographic products. )hese images allow researchers to view
their sub+ects in new and different ways than before. )he images often are e,ually helpful in
conveying the technical concepts of GIS study sub+ects to non3scientists.
GIS and related technology will help greatly in the management and analysis of these large
volumes of data, allowing for better understanding of terrestrial processes and better management
of human activities to maintain world economic vitality and environmental ,uality.
Session 2: "efining and Understanding t$e "e%ates &round GIS
4.1 Differing Definitions for Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
)here are a number of reasons that makes it difficult to define a GIS. Although there has been
some debate about the origin of the term and the date of initiation of work in the field, it is clear the
GIS are relatively recent phenomena. )he last 45 years has seen a rapid rate of development in the
GIS field, leading to a period of intense activity in the last 6& years or so.
)he recent commercial orientation of much GIS activity has led to a great deal of rhetoric. An
increase of new computer systems intended for GIS, many of which are e.isting systems that are
re3packaged and re3labeled thus leading to market e.ploitation. In con+unction to this, there has
been a rise in the number of GIS consultants, many of whom offer conflicting advice.
)he GIS field is further characterized by a great diversity of application. GIS is an integrated
system, which brings together ideas developed in many areas including fields of agriculture, botany,
computing, economics, mathematics, surveying, geology, hydrology, environmental sciences and
geography. Inevitably, it is difficult to distinguish between the competing claims of different
organizations and individuals all of which wish to be represented in a vibrant and profitable sector.
It is also difficult to define a GIS, as there are many ways in defining and classifying ob+ects and
sub+ects. 7ot surprising there are many different methods that are applied to define a GIS. )he
main reason for to this definitional difficulties come from academic debate about the central focus of
current GIS activity. Some believe that the hardware and software are the central focus! others
argue that information processing or applications are the key elements.
)his has lead to GIS being seen by many as a special case of information systems. )he
interpretation of data leads to valuable information, which is a symbolic representation of features.
)he value of this information depends on many factors such as time scale, conte.t, cost of
collection, storage, analysis or manipulation and availability.
'.1.2 ($at distinguis$es GIS from ot$er information s)stems*
GIS integrates spatial and other kinds of information within one system, it offers a consistent
framework for analyzing space.
GIS makes connections between activities based on spatial pro.imity.
GIS provides the mechanisms for undertaking the manipulation, analysis and display of
geographic knowledge.
Session 3: Understanding +oncepts of Scale, -ro.ection and +o/
Ordinates in GIS.
5.1 ap Scale
)he scale of a map is the ratio between distances on the map and corresponding distances on the
ground. If a map has a scale of 685& &&&, then 6 cm on the map e,uals 5& &&& cm or &.5 km on the
#arth/s surface. )he use of small scale and large scale is often confusing. A large3scale map shows
small areas, for e.ample 6 %& or 686 &&& and it is possible to identify small features from the map 3
for e.ample individual buildings, streets. A small3scale map shows large areas, for e.ample 685&
&&& or 68 6 &&& &&&. At these scales, a town is represented as an individual symbol. )hus, scale of
the map controls not only how features are represented, but also what features are displayed. )his
links to generalization of features. In other words, Scale determines resolution of data, for e.ample
simplification of reality. It is used as a compromise to attain a standard for many different users due
to time and cost9
S+&018 Scale of a map represents the relationship between the size of the map and the size of the
actual area that the map represents and can be represented in three ways!"
A statement or word scale : %cm to 6;m
A representative fraction : 685& &&&. )his uses the same unit for the map as for land. In the
age of digital information and copying, one has to be careful of this scale. <ou can enlarge
on the photocopier or scan something in and this scale is completely inade,uate and
=ine or linear scale : Straight line marking off units indicating the e,uivalent distance on the
land and looks like a ruler on the map.
2e) Scale Measurements in S&8 685& &&& topographic sheets and 686& &&& orthophoto maps
5.# ap $eferencing Systems
1aps are fre,uently used as a method to determine location in space, thus it is important to have
an understanding of how real world features are measured and initially recorded on a map,
particularly when that map data may be captured into a digital format for use in a GIS. )hematic and
topographic maps generally represent features or some aspect of the real world. )hey are thus an
abstraction of reality and as such may contain some degree of generalization and distortion in their
spatial properties "for e.ample the representation of a road and rail line running parallel to each
In general, terms, the overall shape of the #arth needs to be translated into a two3dimensional flat
surface in order for it to be represented as a map. A modified spheroid known as a geoid "not a true
spheroid as the 2olar $egions are slightly flattened( is used to represent the #arth. 2ositions can be
measured relative to the center of the geoid that is then divided into imaginary lines known as
graticules, separating the north>south and east>west hemispheres. )he graticules are more
commonly referred to as latitude or parallels "east west( and longitude or meridians "north south(.
1easurements using graticules "latitude>longitude( are read in degrees, minutes and seconds "note8
need to convert to decimal degrees for a GIS(. Often these measurements are known as
geographic coordinates. 1ap scaling and referencing in turn affect such things as the resolution and
angle of pro+ection.
5.3 %roperties of $esol&tion
)he smallest distinguishable difference between two measurable values
)he smallest distance over it is possible to record change
7eed to consider what is visible to the naked eye and the human operator and the smallest
distance that particular hardware and software can accept
2ro+ection helps to identify location on earth. ased on measurement of displacement from a
given location
)wo types8
3.3.1 -lane:
?artesian plane, this is very easy to work with
)wo a.es @! < co3ordinates all points are measured relative to origin "&! &(, a.es at A&
degrees to each other and uses 2ythagoras to determine distance.
Bseful for plotting individual points on the ground and if mapping a small piece of the earth
3.3.2 -ro.ection:
Bse of mathematical formula to take into account the #arth/s shape
Bse of every odd meridian in the South African =O system as centerline of least distortion.
)here are some limitations of this approach 83
Bses a % degree block 3 6 degree either side of the Ccentral meridianD
7o distortion in the vertical, only in the horizontal
7eed to ,uote /central meridian/ used when applying =O system
$est of the 0orld % degree distortion, SA stricter at 6 degree
2roblem with edge of maps, if need an area greater than on the map, then need to revert to
the global systems
$ounding off can lead to error 3 makes surveyors paranoidE
5.3 ap %ro'ections
1any map pro+ections have been developed to represent the #arth in two3dimensions.
)ransforming the surface of a globe into a two3dimensional sheet of paper or computer screen
means that distortion of features 3 size, shape, distance and direction 3 will occur. 2ro+ections can
be classified according to the distortions that they avoid. In general, a pro+ection can belong to only
one of the following classes8
6. 14ual area pro.ections - 2reserve the area of ob+ects by assigning them an area on the map
which is proportional to their area on the #arth. )hese are useful for applications which re,uire
measuring area and are used e.tensively in GIS applications.
%. +onformal pro.ections - 2reserve the shape of small ob+ects and show direction "bearings(
correctly. )hese are useful in navigation.
4. 14uidistant pro.ections 2reserve distances.
5.4 Glo(al )*"*$DI+,-.S
There are two main types of co-ordinates, namely:
Meridian/ connects 7orth and South 2ole and is vertical, referred to as longitude.
-arallel -line of constant latitude and is horizontal, referred to as latitude.
0hen mapping #arth from 4F to %F distortion occurs. )his makes it impossible to use Cplan
systemD for mapping large areas.
Angles, areas, direction, shapes and distances all become distorted, but cannot keep all
correct within any one particular pro+ection.
)his makes it important for one to choose pro+ection according to re,uirements
CGeographicD pro+ection uses =at>=ong co3ordinates and is 7O) c pro+ection but a geo3
referenced map.
5./ )o"*r0inate Systems
=atitude and longitude is not the only map referencing systems in use. 1any countries adopt or use
an arbitrary grid system. )hese may be so3called national grid systems. In South Africa we have the
South African ?o3ordinate System. )his is indicated in the margins of maps by short black ticks at
6& &&& meter intervals, with co3ordinate values in units of 6& &&& meters in blue representing
distance from the e,uator and central meridian graticules. )he other co3ordinate systems are8
3.5.1 +on/formal -ro.ection
/1ercator System/ 3 angles of the original features are preserved
Over small areas the shapes are preserved, but distort at greater distances
=ines are drawn in @!< direction always straight and always at A& degrees to each other
+onformal -ro.ection uses maps that are based on one of a group of cylindrical pro+ections
"others are conical and planar(. )hese pro+ect from the center of the globe onto a cylinder, which
surrounds and touches the globe around the e,uator.

Figure 1: Conformal Projection
?onformal means showing any small area in its correct shape thus showing true direction and
should therefore be used whenever the direction is important
)he a.is of 1ercator/s pro+ection is the e,uator 3 the area on either side of the e,uator will
therefore reflect accurate direction and shape 3 but as you go towards the poles, areas are
grossly e.aggerated, for e.ample Greenland looks bigger than South America
-he cylin0er to&ches the
glo(e aro&n0 the e1&ator
Gauss ?entral 1eridian 3 in South Africa to better reflect area and direction we use a system
developed by ;arl Gauss, a mathematician who turned the 1ercator pro+ection onto its side G
)ransverse 1ercator pro+ection. )hus, a line of longitude becomes the central meridian as
opposed to the e,uator as is the case with the standard 1ercator pro+ection.
Figure 2: Representation of a projection
?larke 6HH& spheroid 3 the earth is not a perfect sphere 3 it has slight flattening at the poles
caused by its rotation and gravitation. )o compensate for this, ?larke, an #nglish geodesist
computed the dimensions of the earth as a spheroid and our 685& &&& series are based on these
calculations. 14ual &rea -ro.ection:
/=ambert 2ro+ection/, usually at 685&& &&& scale
Area is retained, angles and shapes become distorted 14uidistant -ro.ection:
Feals with small areas only, distance are kept correct, all else h distorted #$e Gauss +onformal -ro.ection 6#ransverse Mercator7
At the bottom of each 685&, &&& topographic sheet in South Africa is printed the following8
Gauss ?onform 2ro+ection, ?entral 1eridian 46I "this can vary( #ast, ?larke 6HH& Spheroid.