Geographic Terms & Acronyms


a process of calculations, supported by mathematical proof, used to bring about a solution to a problem.

Anchor Store
a dominant or major tenant of a shopping mall, centre or plaza that draws customers to the retail centre. (i.e. Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe's, Costco, Hudson’s Bay, Canadian Tire, Macy’s, Dillard's, Nordstrom, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Carrefour, Kroger, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Large Supermarket Chains).

a generic term that refers to a linked variable / information / record of an object, node, point, vector, line, arc or polygon.

acronym for Automatic Vehicle Location. AVL is the integration of GIS, GPS Tracking and Wireless technolgies in automobiles / vehicles, trucking / fleet and industrial or commerical equipment. Applications include but are limited to Tracking of Vehicles, Fleet Management, Logistics, Emergency / Quick Response, Automatic Dispatching, Cargo / Stolen Property Tracking. AVL i/o devices typically also perform additional functionality such as Engine Diagnostics (on/off sensors) and Cargo / Load / Weight Sensoring.

the measuring of water depth mainly of seas and oceans but sometimes of deep lakes.

is one side of a street between two consecutive features intersecting that street. The features can be other streets or boundaries of standard geographic areas. Block-faces are used for generating block-face representative points, which in turn are used for geocoding and census data extraction when the street and address information are available.

acronym for Business to Business, which is one of the three major forms or types of commerce (i.e. Business to Customer, Customer to Customer, Business to Business).

Cadastre / Cadastral
Cadastre/ Cadastral a record of the area, boundaries, location, value and ownership of land, achieved by a Cadastral Survey.

Cartographic boundary files (CBFs) contain the boundaries of standard geographic areas together with the shoreline around Canada. Selected inland lakes and rivers are available as a supplementary layer.

Acronym for Center for Communications Management Information.

A census consolidated subdivision (CCS) is a group of adjacent census subdivisions. Generally, the smaller, more urban census subdivisions (towns, villages, etc.) are combined with the surrounding, larger, more rural census subdivision, in order to create a geographic level between the census subdivision and the census division.

Census division (CD) is the general term for provincially legislated areas (such as county, municipalité régionale de comté and regional district) or their equivalents. Census divisions are intermediate geographic areas between the province/territory level and the municipality (census subdivision).

a survey, usually into the size and nature of a population, taken at a particular point in time.

Central Office
is the main office / physical building where subscriber lines of a LEC are joined to switching equipment for connection of local and long distance calls. A Central Office may house several switching exchanges.

acronym for Competitive Local Exchange Carrier. A CLEC is a telecommunications provider / carrier which competes with other carriers. CLECs are the new group of telecommunication service providers apart from the original ILECs. CLECs formed in advent of divesture and beginnings of deregulation of the telecommunications industry in 1985.

a census metropolitan area (CMA) or a census agglomeration (CA) is formed by one or more adjacent municipalities centred on a large urban area (known as the urban core). A CMA must have a total population of at least 100,000 of which 50,000 or more must live in the urban core. A CA must have an urban core population of at least 10,000. To be included in the CMA or CA, other adjacent municipalities must have a high degree of integration with the central urban area, as measured by commuting flows derived from census place of work data. If the population of the urban core of a CA declines below 10,000, the CA is retired. However, once an area becomes a CMA, it is retained as a CMA even if its total population declines below 100,000 or the population of its urban core falls below 50,000. The urban areas in the CMA or CA that are not contiguous to the urban core are called the urban fringe. Rural areas in the CMA or CA are called the rural fringe. When a CA has an urban core of at least 50,000, it is subdivided into census tracts. Census tracts are maintained for the CA even if the population of the urban core subsequently falls below 50,000. All CMAs are subdivided into census tracts.

acronym for Central Office. The Central Office is the physical building where subscriber lines of a LEC are joined to switching equipment for connection of local and long distance calls. A Central Office may house several switching exchanges.

a line on a map joining places of equal heights and sometimes equal depths, above and below sea level.

Contour Interval
is the vertical change between consecutive contours.

Coordinate System
a coordinate system is a reference system based on mathematical rules for specifying positions (locations) on the surface of the earth. The coordinate values can be spherical (latitude and longitude) or planar (such as Universal Transverse Mercator). Cartographic boundary files, digital boundary files, representative points and road network files are disseminated in latitude/longitude NAD 83 coordinates.

Coordinates the magnitudes / defacto numbers (i.e. Latitiude / Longitude) used to determine a geographic position / spot on the globe / planet earth.

Census subdivision (CSD) is the general term for municipalities (as determined by provincial/territorial legislation) or areas treated as municipal equivalents for statistical purposes (e.g., Indian reserves, Indian settlements and unorganized territories).

Universal database File format, used by Microsoft Spreadsheets.

Census tracts (CTs) are small, relatively stable geographic areas that usually have a population of 2,500 to 8,000. They are located in census metropolitan areas and in census agglomerations with an urban core population of 50,000 or more in the previous census. A committee of local specialists (for example, planners, health and social workers, and educators) initially delineates census tracts in conjunction with Statistics Canada. Once a census metropolitan area (CMA) or census agglomeration (CA) has been subdivided into census tracts, the census tracts are maintained even if the urban core population subsequently declines below 50,000.

DA (Dissemination Area)
acronym for Dissemination Area. DAs are small areas composed of one or more neighbouring dissemination blocks, in which Census data is collected at by a Census representative. Typically these areas represent an area population of 400 to 700 persons. All of Canada is divided into Dissemination Areas.

a datum is a geodetic reference system that specifies the size and shape of the earth, and the base point from which the latitude and longitude of all other points on the earth’s surface are referenced.

DB (Dissemination Block)
Acronym for Dissemination Block. DBs are micro areas bounded on all sides by roads and/or boundaries of standard geographic areas. The dissemination block is the smallest geographic area for which population and dwelling counts are disseminated. DBs are equivalent to a city block bounded by intersecting streets. These areas cover all the territory of Canada (Canadian Census) and US (US Census).

Digital boundary files (DBFs) portray the boundaries used for 2011 Census collection and, therefore, often extend as straight lines into bodies of water.

Disposable Income
available income / money for spending or consumption after-tax, after-necessity, after-financial commitments, after-mortgages.

Distance Decay
Distance Decay the lessening force of a phenomenon of interaction with increasing distance from the location of maximum intensity.

Acronym for Digital Line Graph, USGS default file format for vector data.

a designated place (DPL) is normally a small community or settlement that does not meet the criteria established by Statistics Canada to be a census subdivision (an area with municipal status) or an urban area. Designated places are created by provinces and territories, in cooperation with Statistics Canada, to provide data for sub-municipal areas.

Default drawing file format, used by AutoCAD.

Default drawing plot file format, used by AutoCAD.

the vertical (up and down) distance / height above the earth's horizon / sea level.

an economic region (ER) is a grouping of complete census divisions (CDs) (with one exception in Ontario) created as a standard geographic unit for analysis of regional economic activity.

Eutrophication is the process by which ecosystems (usually lakes) become more fertile environments. As detergents, sewage and agricultural fertilizers flow in, algae bloom is stimulated. The expansion and growth of algae, chokes out / depletes the oxygen supply in the water / ecosystem, causing overall death to all species / life in the ecosystem.

the prediction of a value made by projecting into the future the trend that a set of data exhibits Fathom a measurement of water depth; 6 feet or 1.829 metres.

A federal electoral district (FED) is an area represented by a member of the House of Commons. The federal electoral district boundaries used for the 2006 Census are based on the 2003 Representation Order.

In Geographic Information Systems databases, a column or attribute containing data input or record information of a map object.

of, or connected with, rivers.

acronym for Forward Sortation Area. FSAs are the first three digits (alpha-numeric-alpha) of the Canadian Postal Code, which represent a geographic polygon / district / delivery area for the Postal service. If the second digit of the FSA contains a zero, this represents a rural regional delivery versus an urban area which is coded / numbered one thru nine.

acronym for Forward Sortation Area Local Delivery Unit. FSALDU is the full 6-digit (alpha-numeric-alpha-numeric-alpha-numeric / A2A 2A2) Canadian postal code, which represents the final geographic delivery point for the postal service. The final delivery point can be a street address, a small range of addresses or a single building such as an office tower, apartment building or institution.

the study / science of the earth, physical or human inter actions and relationships over space.

Geocode or 'geocoding' is the process of assigning a geographic coordinate, link or placement on a map to a descriptive location or dataset of records. The resulting process converts descriptive locations into mapped objects.

Is the acronym for Geographic Information System. GIS are integrated computer applications which involve the storage, visualization, linkage and manipulation of digital / electronicmaps and data. GIS creates high tech, smart, intuitive and persuasive decision making maps to use for locating, mapping, routing, planning, trend analysis and predictive modeling.

acronym for Gross Leasable Area, the rentable, leasable area of a shopping centre, retail space, typically represented in square feet (sq. ft.).

Default file format, used by OpenGIS.

Human Geography
the study of geography not dealing exclusively with physical landscapes. Human Geography is concern with the study and analysis of human relationships and interactions with spatial physical geography such as Economic Geography, Population Growth / Demographic Studies, Urban Planning, Agricultural and Industrial.

Hydrography the mapping and survey of watercourses, rivers, lakes, seas or oceans.

acronym for Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier. ILECs are essentially the seven regional monopolies / Regional Bell Operating Companies (Baby Bells) and Independent Operating Companies (MCI and Sprint) providing local service prior to the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which removed the impediments of these companies offering long distance services, as well enabling long distance providers to offer local service. ILECs receive different regulatory controls than newer CLECs.

Interpolation forming an estimate of a value with reference to known values either side of it, this method is used for contour lines or other isopleths.

Jokulhlaup is a flash flood of glacial ice meltwater, caused by volcanic actvity.

Default file format, used by OpenGIS.

Keyhole Markup Language default file format, used by Google Earth.

Latitude parallels of latitude are imaginary circles drawn round the earth parallel to the equator, the parallels are numbered according to the angle formed between a line from the line of latitude to the centre of the earth and a line from the centre of the earth to the equator.

acronym for Local Exchange Carrier. A LEC is any telecommunications service carrier, both ILECs and CLECs are considered LECs.

Longitude the position of a point on the globe in terms of its meridian east or west of the prime meridian, expressed in degrees. These degrees may be subdivided into minutes and seconds, although decimal parts of the degree are increasingly used.

a representation on a flat surface of all or part of the earth's surface or all or part of the stars. Diagrammatic maps include choropleths, dot maps, flow charts, plans and topological maps.

Marketing Geography
Marketing Geography the geographical application of the way that production of goods is linked with their marketing.

Market Penetration
The population or number households that consume a particular product, good, service or visit a retail centre.

Database File Format, used by Microsoft Access.

The census metropolitan area and census agglomeration influenced zone (MIZ) is a concept that geographically differentiates the area of Canada outside census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and census agglomerations (CAs). Census subdivisions outside CMAs and CAs are assigned to one of four categories according to the degree of influence (strong, moderate, weak or no influence) that the CMAs and/or CAs have on them. Census subdivisions (CSDs) are assigned to a MIZ category based on the percentage of their resident employed labour force that has a place of work in the urban core(s) of CMAs or CAs. CSDs with the same degree of influence tend to be clustered. They form zones around CMAs and CAs that progress through the categories from ‘strong’ to ‘no’ influence as distance from the CMAs and CAs increases.

the figure in a set of data which occurs most often. The mode is often used to indicate a class grouping rather than an individual value so that the modal class is indicated.

a composite photograph of an area made by assembling all or part of a number of prints.

Nearest Neighbour / Neighbor Analysis
Nearest Neighbour Analysis the study or analysis of points / locations / settlements to determine regularity / patterns versus a random pattern of points / locations / settlements. Straight line (as the crow flies) distances between points are used to determine its nearest neighbour and then divided by the total number of points / locations / settlements to determine the 'observed' / 'analyzed' mean distance. The mean distance is then divided by the expected mean distance of a random pattern of points. This calculation creates a benchmark / index, the closer the calculation is to the index, the more clustered the pattern of points / locations / settlements are.

intersection / central points of a network / routes / lines.

Osmosis the passage of weaker solution to a stronger solution through a semi permeable membrane. In soils, the more dilute soil moisture passes by osmotic pressure into the plant roots and in this way is taken up by plants.

a form of oxygen, three atoms rather two atoms per molecule as in free oxygen. The ozone layer stretches from 15 - 20 km above the earth's surface. It absorbs most of the harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

an element of a picture, the basic unit from which an image can be built up.

Place Name
Place name refers to the set of names that includes current census subdivisions (municipalities), current designated places and current urban areas, as well as the names of localities.

In GIS terms, a single location with zero dimensional spatial area, typically associated with an x/y coordinate for spatial positioning or reference.

a geographic term used to describe map objects in the form of an area, closed boundary or region.

Population Density
Population density is the number of persons per square kilometre.

Postcode / Postal Code
in postal terms, the postcode / postal code is a specific delivery code defined and maintained by national mailing corporations for the purpose of sorting and delivering mail.

Default file format, used by Oracle Spatial and SQL Server.

Prime Meridian
the "0" meridian, passing through Greenwich, London, from which all other longitudes are determined.

Projection the technique used for calculating / transforming the curvature / 3 dimensional sphere of the earth onto a 'flat' 2 dimensional map.

Province and territory refer to the major political or administrative units of a country. From a statistical point of view, province and territory are basic areas for which data are tabulated. Canada is divided into 10 provinces and three territories.

Qualitative concerned with quality and often applied to a judgment not backed up by objective measurement.

Raster in Geographic Information Systems, a grid square. Raster data are spatial data expressed as a matrix of cells, with spatial order indicated in the ordering of the cells.

Rate Center / Rate Centre
is a geographic area, assigned with a V&H coordinate to determine telco billing / toll rates / airline mileage as well exchange assignments. Rate Centers are made up of several exchanges / NXXs, and in some cases several Area Codes / NPAs. Long distance billing typically applies when calls are made from one Rate Center to another.

a defined geographic area based on distinctive qualities. Regions may be defined as administrative, municipal, political, telco service, postal delivery areas.

Remote Sensing
Remote Sensing is the gathering of / or earth data collected without physically sampling it. The term typically applies to the collection of Earth Observation / Imagery Data collected by Aerial / Flown or Satellite Imagery, via remote sensors and infrared processing.

Representative Point
a representative point is a point that represents a line or a polygon. The point is centrally located along the line segment and / or centrally located or population weighted in the polygon. Representative points are generated for block-faces, dissemination blocks, dissemination areas, census subdivisions, urban areas and designated places. Households, postal codes and place of work data are linked to block-face representative points when the street and address information is available; otherwise, they are linked to dissemination block (DB) representative points. In some cases, postal codes and place of work data are linked to dissemination area (DA) representative points when they cannot be linked to DBs As well, place of work data are linked to census subdivision representative points when the data cannot be linked to DAs.

Rural Area
Rural areas include all territory lying outside urban areas. Taken together, urban and rural areas cover all of Canada. Rural population includes all population living in the rural fringes of census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and census agglomerations (CAs), as well as population living in rural areas outside CMAs and CAs.

The Statistical Area Classification (SAC) groups census subdivisions according to whether they are a component of a census metropolitan area, a census agglomeration, a census metropolitan area and census agglomeration influenced zone (strong MIZ, moderate MIZ, weak MIZ or no MIZ), or the territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut). The SAC is used for data dissemination purposes.

the distance between a map and the 'real' / corresponding distance on the earth or ground. A scale is typically represented by a scale bar / line with incremental numbers.

in map making terms, perfectly smooth geometry without awkward transitions, in relation to geographic boundary or polygon files having no gaps, slivers or overlaps of regions adjoining each other.

The Standard Geographical Classification (SGC) is Statistics Canada’s official classification for three types of geographic areas: provinces and territories, census divisions (CDs) and census subdivisions (CSDs). The SGC provides unique numeric identification (codes) for these hierarchically related geographic areas.

Default vector file format, used by ESRI software.

acronym for Standard Industrial Classification, the grouping or categories of industries and businesses as defined by the government.

Site Evaluation
Performance and sales analysis of a potential site, store or service based on the trade area, demographic and physical characteristics of the new location.

Default vector file format, used by MapInfo Professional software.

American acronym for Telephone / Telecommunications Company.

British acronym for Telecommunications.

Thematic Map
a thematic map shows the spatial distribution of one or more specific data themes for standard geographic areas. The map may be qualitative in nature (e.g., predominant farm types) or quantitative (e.g., percentage population change).

Thiessen Polygon
is a regional boundary defined by the closest mid-point or sector line between all sample or set of points or locations. Often used in Trade Area analysis, the region generated determines the area of influence a point location may have in reference to all other points.

Topographic Map
Topographic Map a map which indicates, to scale, the natural features of the earth's surface, as well as human features. The features are shown at the correct relationship to each other. Topological Map a map designed to show only the selected feature. Locations are shown as dots with straight lines connecting them. Distance, scale, and relative orientation are not important.

Acronym for Unbundled Local Exchange Carrier.

Urban Area
an urban area has a minimum population concentration of 1,000 persons and a population density of at least 400 persons per square kilometre, based on the current census population count. All territory outside urban areas is classified as rural. Taken together, urban and rural areas cover all of Canada. Urban population includes all population living in the urban cores, secondary urban cores and urban fringes of census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and census agglomerations (CAs), as well as the population living in urban areas outside CMAs and CAs.

Urban Sprawl
The growth or extension of urban / fringe development into rural or countryside areas, typically influenced by population growth and new transportation corridors.

A telco company that is a subsidiary of, owned or managed by a transmission, gas or electric utility provider.

acronym for Universal Transverse Mercator. A map projection system for global mapping. UTM divides the world into 60 zones each of 6 degrees longitude wide extending from 80 degrees latitude South to 84 degrees latitude North.

Vector Data
Vector Data in Geographic Information Systems, positional data in the form of points, lines and polygons, expressed as x and y coordinates.

V&H Coordinates
V&H Coordinates developed by Jay K. Donald, of AT&T, and published by Telecordia Technologies, are the Vertical & Horizontal / reprojected converted equilized 2-dimensional Latitude & Longitude coordinates of major cities / billing centers / rate centers / central offices / switch locations in North America. V&H Coordinates are determined by a formula, similar to the calculation of airline mileage between two airports (i.e. Square Root of ((V1-V2) x (V1-V2) + (H1-H2) x (H1-H2)) / 10). V&H coordinates are used for billing purposes, billing is charged based on the 'as the crow files' / 'airline distance' distance between two center's coordinates.

in a hot desert, a steep-sided, flat-floored valley very occasionally occupied by an intermittent stream.

land that is satuated periodically or permanently by water.

Wire Center / Wire Centre
Wire Center is a central point where physical circuits are interconnected / the areas covered by an exchange / NXX. It is the location where local lines of an Exchange / NXX are terminated. A Wire Center will serve a unique set of phone number Exchanges / NXXs within a fixed geographic area. One to several Central Offices may serve a Wire Centre.

X Coordinate
X Coordinate the horizontal position across the label width where a printed field begins.

Database file format, used by Microsoft Excel

Y Coordinate
Y Coordinate the vertical position across the label width where a printed field begins.

Zenith in broad terms, the zenith is the direction pointing directly above a particular location (perpendicular, orthogonal). Since the concept of being above is somewhat vague, Scientists define the zenith in more rigorous terms.

Zone area of geography banded by parallel line of latitude.

Z Value
Z Value is the third dimensional value on a map / plane. Z Values represent the Elevation / Spot Height / Contour / relief data of the land. Where 'x' represents the Longitude value, 'y' represents the Latitude value, 'z' represents the Elevation / height value.

ZIP Code
The Zone Improvement Area code is a five-character code defined and maintained by United State Postal Service (USPS) for the purpose of sorting and delivering mail.

Entries by Rob Benneyworth


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