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View Full Version : Dangit, Jim, I'm an Artist, Not a Geographer



HereBeLions
04-22-2013, 06:03 PM
Hello, everyone! I'm in the process of making a map for a story I'm writing, and I find myself in a bit of a pickle regarding the geography and climate. The main nation the story follows is an isolated kingdom trapped within a cage of impassable mountain ranges. The mountains are ridiculously huge - Olympus Mons would be on the smaller end of average - and they're stalked by big gribbly monsters with no compunctions about eating you. Here are my rather scruffy plans, or at least what I have so far. The final will be much nicer than this, I promise!

The grey areas are mountains, white is water, and yellow indicates man-made stuff.

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Here are my notes; I really hope you can read my handwriting. I won't be offended if you ask for translations.

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You Are Here - there are more continents than this, but they won't show up in the story so they don't matter.

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The Cage is made up of a very small tectonic plate that's in the process of being crushed by two bigger ones.

What I'd like to know is, how would being completely mountain-locked affect the climate and weather both inside the 'cage' and outside? Any other comments or critique on what I've got so far would also be very welcome. Suggestions for what could be in that empty third of the continent are much appreciated too.

Schyzm
04-22-2013, 10:29 PM
offhand, with that latitude and those very high mountains... you're looking at:

weather: Dry. Sunny. dry. Cold. Oh, and dry.

clouds tend to rain on the windward side of the mountains - so since it's completely surrounded by high mountains, and the trade winds would still impact the mountains, you're looking at not a lot of moisture from the oceans getting in. You'll get some... but not a lot.

HereBeLions
04-22-2013, 10:41 PM
Thanks Shcyzm! I figured it would be dry, but didn't quite extrapolate that to sunny as well. There would be plenty of fresh water coming up from the mountains, though, and the area's probably volcanic, so would the combination of plenty of rivers and fertile soil be able to sustain agriculture, even with very little rainfall?

Schyzm
04-22-2013, 11:11 PM
Thanks Shcyzm! I figured it would be dry, but didn't quite extrapolate that to sunny as well. There would be plenty of fresh water coming up from the mountains, though, and the area's probably volcanic, so would the combination of plenty of rivers and fertile soil be able to sustain agriculture, even with very little rainfall?

so, you know the old adage about water flowing down hill? if all the water is falling on the outside of the ring, the rivers (which are made due to rain fall) wouldn't be particularly large.. and wouldn't provide much. Also, since it's completely surrounded, the water doesn't have many places to go - so you might get a lake or bog in the middle - without serious outflow or rainfall though, it'd be a rather nasty, salty kind of place. Fraught with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions (those crushing tectonic plates do the trick).

given the scale, you might get some limited water cycle going on northeastern inner side of the ring of mountains - maybe enough to support some agriculture. but not a lot. to give you an idea of the kind problems that arise when dealing with high mountains and precipitation, check out this wikipedia article on eastern washington state (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Washington). Now imagine that no where in your great basin of mountains does it rain more than 7 inches per year....

In any case, what I'm getting at is that areas completely surrounded by mountains are extremely arid.

HereBeLions
04-22-2013, 11:37 PM
Ah, yeah, that makes sense. Any ideas on how to make the area liveable?

What would happen if there were an inland sea inside the basin? Would that just make things even saltier, or would it be able to create a microcosmic water cycle?

Anthem
04-23-2013, 03:03 PM
I'm with Schyzm... and pretty sure it wouldn't be livable; depending on the height of the mountains... (check out this RW example: Google Maps (http://goo.gl/maps/ADRBo) for one of the driest places on earth). So, that leaves you with... MAGIC! Or something tapping deep into the earth for natural springs, etc. it would have to be something that intervenes with the natural order of things if you want water there.

HereBeLions
04-23-2013, 03:14 PM
Hm... would regular earthquakes allow for underground water to reach the surface, d'you think?

Larb
04-23-2013, 03:14 PM
An alternative to "LOL MAGIC!" is some kind of great engineering feat to make the area livable and bring water to it. Either some (fairly) recent thing or perhaps something of ANCIENT CONSTRUCTION that all have come to rely on (a bit of a cliche I suppose but it could make for a good plot point and any cliche can work if done well enough).

HereBeLions
04-23-2013, 03:25 PM
Unfortunately it's a low-fantasy setting so I can't throw magic at all my problems, and the original settlers would have died before any sort of engineering feat could have been made workable.

I appear to have painted myself into a corner here, haven't I?

eViLe_eAgLe
04-23-2013, 03:40 PM
Not really, it's just that everyone is taking a look at this from a earth perspective, who is to say this planets trade winds and clouds aren't higher?

HereBeLions
04-23-2013, 04:38 PM
That could work - what sort of effect would higher-altitude winds have on the rest of the world?

Schyzm
04-23-2013, 07:06 PM
Not really, it's just that everyone is taking a look at this from a earth perspective, who is to say this planets trade winds and clouds aren't higher?

Physics. In order for them to be higher, you'd need either lighter gravity or a denser atmosphere. Both of those changes would really mess with any earth-based archetypes when it comes to body shape/size of people, plants, animals, etc....

Schyzm
04-23-2013, 07:10 PM
Unfortunately it's a low-fantasy setting so I can't throw magic at all my problems, and the original settlers would have died before any sort of engineering feat could have been made workable.

I appear to have painted myself into a corner here, haven't I?

In a lot of ways you're in a corner, but only if you want to isolate this area geographically in this specific way.
for low-magic, low technology worlds, mountains on some sides, impassible deserts and extremely rough/northern (iceberg choked) seas would do the trick, and still allow for a legitimate hydrological cycle.

HereBeLions
04-23-2013, 08:11 PM
This is getting increasingly tricky. I may have to do some overhauling.

How about the things I suggested earlier, an inland sea creating a water cycle in miniature, or earthquakes bringing deep groundwater flowing underground from the south to the surface?

Schyzm
04-23-2013, 09:49 PM
so, if you look at inland seas on earth, you'll notice that they either all have connections out - a connection out means a pass low enough that water can flow through it (which would break the isolation you're looking for), or they're of the extremely salty variety (because they don't have inflow matching their evaporation - think the dead sea). Afraid that one is out. As to earthquakes bringing up water - sure.. but not in great quantities.

One possibility to consider is that deep wells (not sure how your people would get them, but hey, that's a society/tech thing) might tap an older water table that could be used for irrigation purposes. They would need to be deep, and the water table wouldn't refill due to the overall lack of precipitation, but it might hold agriculture for a while...

waldronate
04-23-2013, 11:06 PM
The higher mountains around the edge will likely be topped with substantial glaciers. While the glaciers will probably be larger on the outside surface of the mountains, there is a high likelihood that the glaciers will flow down BOTH sides of the mountains. That means meltwater streams on both sides.

Take a look at the Taklimakan desert in China. It's a deep, dry basin with a few rivers that flow down into it. In your case, add more glaciers to the mountain ranges and you'll have enough water inside to do something with.

Lingon
04-24-2013, 03:03 AM
I'd just like to chip in that you could probably get away without explaining how this whole thing works; if the story is good, very few readers will notice that something's off geologically. Personally, had I read a book about this setting without reading this thread, I would have assumed that there was enough rain coming over the mountains and enough drainage through the ground to let everything work. And even if there is a possible way, chances are you are never going to find a way to include it in the story; it has happened to me many times that I've thought really hard about how something would function and then ended up leaving it all to the reader's imagination, and it always turned out better that way.

That said, you seem determined to work this out, and I won't try to stop you ;) And (without any advanced knowledge) I think Waldronate's suggestion seems plausible; it's what I would go with if I had to have a scientific explanation.

HereBeLions
04-24-2013, 12:46 PM
Thanks everyone for your input!

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Okay, so it's less an inland sea and more a gigantic fjord, but you get where I'm coming from. The mouth will be icebound all year round, but water will still flow in underneath the ice, so even though the water's salty it'll still be able to contribute to the water cycle. I also like Waldronate's glacial meltwater idea, so that'll probably go in as well.

And Lingon, I know I really ought to leave it to the reader's suspension of disbelief, but unfortunately I'm one of those people who will be haunted by the knowledge that the science is wrong.

Anthem
04-24-2013, 02:47 PM
Maybe the reason they DID settle there is because the ancient technology was already in place and rediscovered... or, here is a thought for you: evapotransporation. In english: plant sweat. You could have a micro climate inside the bowl that feeds itself. This is a common occurrence in jungles: banana farms can cause their own daily thunderstorms... thus watering the area.
Problem: how did the plants get here in the first place? No one remembers or knows... we just found it this way.

HereBeLions
04-24-2013, 03:16 PM
Evapotransporation is my new second-favourite word*. Maybe a semi-aquatic forest living off the water from the fjord, 'sweating' the water, adding to the amount of water in the air, and finally - finally - giving me the excuse for extremely northerly mangrove-esque forests I've always wanted.

*My favourite word is, and shall always be, flammenwerfer.

Schyzm
04-25-2013, 12:09 AM
very nice work there adding the inland sea (yes, it can be such, since all the rivers inside the bowl will flow to it! You've got a water cycle now inside the cage.

HereBeLions
04-25-2013, 05:48 PM
Huzzah! Thank you kindly. Now to get to work on the map itself...

HereBeLions
05-12-2013, 08:07 PM
Just to prove that I'm still alive and working, have a WIP of the mountains;

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Lingon
05-13-2013, 01:02 PM
Looking great! There are a couple of places where they overlap the coastline, which I think looks a little strange, but I love the style!

HereBeLions
05-13-2013, 07:24 PM
Thanks Lingon! I was debating whether I should let the mountains rise up past the coast to keep them in perspective or whether I should keep them within the borders, I'll try trimming them back and see how they look.

Viking
05-16-2013, 11:44 PM
I look forward to seeing this one get done!

jkat718
03-31-2014, 05:56 AM
Not to revive a dead thread or anything, but is there a more recent pic of this map? I'd really like to see how it turns(-ed?) out.