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How are U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps named?

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Welcome to CoreFacts, where we're always short on time, but big on science. I'm Steve Sobieszczyk. Let's get right to it, today's question is:

How are U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps named?

Topographic maps published by the U.S. Geological Survey generally are named for the most centrally located and/or well-known or largest community named on the map. Note that the largest, most well known community may not be centrally located. The name may be scale dependent, that is, the smaller the scale, the larger the area shown, and therefore, the more named features available to be selected for the map name.

To the extent possible, names are selected for communities that are wholly located within the map. If the community for which the map should be named falls on two or more maps, a directional term might be used such as East and West. An example is Washington East and Washington West, D.C.

If the map contains no communities or they are very rural, small, and scattered, it can be named for the most, prominent and centrally located well-known physical or natural feature such as a mountain. As with communities, the feature should be wholly located on the map.

Naming maps for linear features such as streams is generally avoided because such features usually pass through maps or meander on and off the maps. Occasionally, a map area is so devoid of named topography that a directional might be used, as in adding NW or SE to the name of an adjacent map, or even using the map name from a smaller scale series and applying the directional term.

And now you know. Join us every weekday for a new CoreFact. If you're looking for more in-depth science coverage, please check out the USGS CoreCast at If you think you have a question that's worth answering on the air, send it to us either via email at [that's C-O-R-E-F-A-C-T-S at USGS dot GOV] or give us a call and leave a voicemail at 703-648-5600; and that is a long distance number, unless you're in the 703 area code, so long distance fees do apply.

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