Geographic Information Systems

From SEG Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Geographic Information System, commonly known as GIS, is a system that stores, analyzes, and visualizes spatial data. Spatial data is any data that has a location attached to it, such as latitude/longitude coordinates. GIS technology is generally used to answer a specific question, such as finding the best location for a school or an area with high crime rates. GIS focuses on spatial interactions and uses a synthesis of people, hardware, data, software, and analysis to complete tasks. People, such as GIS analysts, use special software and hardware to collect spatial data and analyze it in order to solve a specific problem. [1]

GIS Topics and Tools

Four primary areas of specializations exist in the world of GIS: cartography, remote sensing, spatial analysis, and GIS.

  • Cartography, simply, is the study of mapmaking. Cartographers use GIS systems to create maps much faster than was possible through hand-drawing methods.
  • Remote Sensing uses data gathered from a distance, usually plane or satellite-based instruments, to observe and analyze the earth. It is often used in conjunction with photogrammetry, which focuses on studying aerial photographs.
  • Spatial Analysis studies the patterns and processes that occur across space and determines the significance of those processes. Spatial analysis relies heavily upon spatial statistics.
  • GIS as a specialization refers to the use of GIS programs to analyze information. It uses components of cartography, remote sensing/photogrammetry, and spatial analysis to investigate various issues and problems. [2]

Each of these areas of specialization uses different tools and techniques to complete their analyses. One of the most common software packages is ArcMap, a GIS program created by ESRI. ArcMap can be used for spatial analysis, cartography, some photogrammetry and remote sensing techniques, and GIS analysis. One valuable ability of ArcMap is that it allows geographers to create and easily view many map layers. For example, a geographer can view a map of just streets, one of just buildings, and one depicting hospital locations, or view all of them together, superimposed on top of each other to view how all the data fits together. This layering helps GIS analysts by allowing them to view and analyze parts separately if needed, but also see how all the parts fit together to form a whole.

Some areas where GIS is used

Uses of GIS

GIS is used for many different topics. Some of its uses include human geography fields, politics, natural sciences, urban planning, and economics. Within these fields, GIS can be used for a very large range of topics and problems. It can be used to study precipitation patterns, soils, population density and distribution, diseases, natural resource management, natural hazards and disasters, transportation and communication networks, and any other topic or problem that has a location and spatial component, especially interactions between space.[3] GIS can also be used to study topics across time and between topics, such as how crop health in a specific area of cropland has changed over time or the relationship between wildlife populations and urban growth.

See also


Spatial Analysis

Remote Sensing


  1. CDC - GIS - What is GIS? (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2016, from
  2. GIS as an Integrating Technology. Foote, K.E. and Lynch, M. (n.d.) Retrieved May 21, 2016, from
  3. GIS as an Integrating Technology. Foote, K.E. and Lynch, M. (n.d.) Retrieved May 21, 2016, from

External links

National Geographic GIS