A new view of the world

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 The new Swiss World Atlas is one of the first teaching aids, which is aligned t

The new Swiss World Atlas is one of the first teaching aids, which is aligned to the new "Lehrplan 21". (Image: LMVZ / Andreas Eggenberger)

The Swiss World Atlas has been published in a completely revised new edition. In addition to the usual topographic relief maps, it also contains maps on current global issues such as the environment, energy and conflicts.

Since 1910, the Swiss World Atlas has accompanied generations of secondary school pupils through their geography lessons, conveying not only a comprehensive picture of the earth, but also the specific geography of Switzerland. The popular teaching aid has now been published in a completely revised new edition. The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK), which publishes the atlas, presented the new edition to the public for the first time today.

Lorenz Hurni, a professor at the Institute of Cartography and Geoinformation at ETH Zurich, edited the Swiss World Atlas together with his research group. In the completely redesigned introduction, the researchers provide some insight into their work and explain for the first time how they collect and edit spatial data, turning it into vivid maps. This will help school students to learn how maps are created, and how to read and use them.

New maps thanks to new data

‘We have made huge technological advances in the collection and processing of data. These allow us to develop completely new kinds of maps,’ explains Hurni. The atlas contains a whole range of examples of such newly designed maps; for example, Hurni and his team calculated the economic power of urban centres around the world and have portrayed them in new economic maps. The atlas will also show the world’s key raw material mining regions and the intensity of agricultural use, including the proportions of crop and pasture farming. The economic map of Switzerland includes a detailed breakdown by sector: unsurprisingly, the pharmaceutical industry is particularly prevalent in Basel, while financial services are concentrated in Geneva, Lugano and Zurich.

The Swiss World Atlas also contains thematic maps about current issues such as the environment, energy, natural hazards and conflicts, some of which are included for the first time. The classic relief maps of Europe and Asia have been augmented with high-resolution satellite images of characteristic landscapes. The map of the area around Mount Everest is a world first: it contains a rock representation in the style of the Swiss national maps that was created fully automatically from a digital terrain model. Roman Geisthövel developed this new kind of rendering method as part of his doctoral thesis in Hurni’s group.

Online supplements print

The printed atlas will be rounded off by a website filled with additional material and map annotations. Interactive program tools supplement the maps and infographics, and enable dynamic - sometimes even 3D - access to specific themes, such as the shape of the earth, map projections, and the apparent movement of the sun in the sky. This is particularly useful for teachers who want to use the atlas in a fun way in the classroom. The Swiss World Atlas is one of the first geographical teaching aids aligned to the new ‘Lehrplan 21’ curriculum.