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by Chris Wayan, 2006
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Several of the above terms describe lands of various sizes. English has only two words for "big land surrounded by water": continent and island. Absurd, really--the same term, for Greenland and Manhattan? Still, Earth does have a natural division between continents and islands--a huge size-gap, with Greenland the only borderline case. But Lyr, rich in small continents or large islands, needs a clear hierarchy of terms for them:
- BENTHIC = in the deep sea basins. On Lyr, that's over 80% of the planet!
- CALDERA = a wide volcanic crater, often lake-filled on rainy Lyr. Many have overlapping vents, so various cliff-walled pits of different depths combine into complex shapes.
- CHASM, CHASMA = a rift-valley where crust wells up and spreads. Usually a winding groove flanked by twin ridges. Lyr's rifts are more numerous and broken up than Earth's, more like Venus's, suggesting complex, fragmented convection patterns due to the fast spin and hotter mantle. See also: TRENCH.
- CLUSTER = see GROUP
- CONTINENT = A single landmass larger than 3 million square kilometers (1.2 million sq mi; Australia is 2.9). Even by this modest standard, only three lands on Lyr qualify: Lannach, Corona, and Troisleons. Most landmasses are broken into discontinuous... discontinents? Too awkward. Let's call them TERRAS.
- DRYBELT: Earth has a rainy zone at the equator, drier zones 25 or 30 degrees north and south where most deserts occur, temperate rainy zones 45-60 north and south, and polar deserts. Lyr, due to its size and faster spin, has five HADLEY CELLS (see below), not three like Earth: besides the equatorial rainbelt there's a warm desert belt around 18 degrees north or south, a temperate rainbelt centered on 36 north or south, a cool dry belt around 54 north or south, and a cold rainy/snowy zone centered on 72, plus a small polar dry zone.
- GROUP = A cluster of continents linked by shallows, or a single continent with large satellites, or a continent-sized archipelago of TERRAS. Earth has only two such groups: Antarctica and everything else. Narrow straits and island-chains link all the other continents, even Australia. In fact, Lyrans might consider even Antarctica linked. On huge Lyr, ten groups are isolated by deep, wide seas. Also called CLUSTER
- HADLEY CELL = a loop of air rising in a warm region, then traveling north or south as a high-altitude wind until it cools and grows denser, dropping back to the surface as a cool dry wind that heads back to where it rose, warming and picking up moisture as it goes. The rising zone is usually rainy; the falling zone, arid. Earth has three Hadley cells per hemisphere (tropic, temperate, polar), but faster-spinning Lyr has five, causing narrower climate belts--most importantly, two dry zones per hemisphere, around 18 and 54 degrees north and south.
- HOT SPOT = a lava plume in the mantle, creating shield volcanoes. Hot spots often migrate relative to surface crust, creating seamount chains--young, active volcanic islands near the spot, eroded islands back down the line, then mere reefs, then a trail of eroded seamounts. Lyr has more (and bigger) hot spots than Earth, but deeper seas, too, so many hot-spot volcanoes never break the surface. But those that do can be Martian in scale.
- ISLAND = A narrower term than on Earth, implying a land over 50,000 sq km (20,000 sq mi)--several hundred km wide. From Britain and Honshu down to Java, Ireland, Sri Lanka.
- ISLE = an island over 10,000 sq km (4000 sq mi)--usually 1-200 km across. Taiwan, Sicily, Vancouver Island. Hawaii and Crete are borderline, almost mere ISLETS.
- ISLET = an island under 100 km long, or a couple of hundred but very narrow--a few thousand sq km. Guadalcanal, Puerto Rico... Long Island.
- MAINLAND = a large island. Looser than TERRA (over one million square km) and often a bit smaller; still, MAINLAND implies a land 500-1000 km across. See TERRA, CONTINENT, GROUP
- MONSOON = a strong cycle of dry and wet seasons, especially a rainy summer in which hot air rising over a continental interior sucks storms inland. Lyr lacks large continental interiors, but strong annual wet-dry cycles occur around 10 degrees north and south, and for brevity I call them monsoons. They're powered by Lyr's strong tilt and eccentric orbit, not the difference between maritime and continental climates.
- RAINBELT: Earth has a rainy zone at the equator, a drier zone about 30 degrees north or south, a temperate rainy zone around 45-60 north or south, and a polar dry zone. Lyr is more complex: besides the equatorial rainbelt there's a warm desert belt from 15-20 degrees north or south, a warm-temperate rainbelt in the thirties north or south, a cool dry belt in the fifties north or south, and a cold rainy/snowy zone in the seventies, before reaching the polar dry zone. Due to its size and faster spin, Lyr has five Hadley cells (see), not three like Earth.
- RAINSHADOW = Tall mountain ranges can force stormclouds up until they cool off and rain (or snow) their moisture onto the heights. Downwind, on the back side of the mountains, the prevailing winds are thus dry, squeezed of moisture. Instead of forest, prairie; instead of prairie, desert. A rainshadow.
- RIFT = Same as CHASMA. An undersea ridge-valley complex, where crust wells up and spreads. Usually a winding groove flanked by twin ridges. Lyr's rifts are more numerous and broken up than Earth's, more like Venus's, suggesting complex, fragmented convection patterns due to the fast spin and hotter mantle. See also: TRENCH.
- SAVANNA = a patchwork of woods and grassland, or open woods with dry grass between trees. The dictionary definition of savanna is just "tropical grassland", but popular usage suggests scattered trees and brush. For truly treeless tropical grasslands I use the unambiguous VELDT.
- SHALLOWS, SHELVES = seas less than a kilometer deep, with a distinctive fauna. Terran continental shelves are no more than 1-200 meters deep, but Lyr's seas are much deeper. Though sunlight is dim, the water's extremely clear; coral grows over 200 meters down, though slowly. See BENTHIC
- SHIELD = a low, broad volcano like Hawaii. Lyr has far more sheld volcanoes than Earth, but they stand in deeper seas, so a smaller percentage become islands. Still, they're not rare, and some are nearly Martian in scale.
- STEPPE = a grassland suffering winter frosts, though not always heavy snow. Not the same as TUNDRA, which has permafrost under it (except that on Lyr, there isn't any). See also VELDT.
- TERRA = an island larger than a million square kilometers (400,000 sq mi). On Earth, only Greenland falls in this range between Australia and New Guinea or Borneo. But Lyr has dozens--indeed, most of its land area isn't continental. See also CONTINENT, MAINLAND
- THOLUS = a steep conical volcano like Fuji, but often much larger on Serrana.
- TRENCH = a deep-sea groove where two plates meet and one slides under the other. The upper plate usually raises a mountain range, often studded with volcanoes. These can form an island arc or coastal range.
- TUNDRA = grassland with a frozen layer underground, called permafrost. Common on Earth but nonexistent on Lyr. Not the same as STEPPE
- VELDT = a warm, dry grassland without trees (unlike SAVANNA). See also STEPPE.
Gazetteer: index of places, with descriptions. Or...
- CLUSTER or GROUP = Continents linked by shallows, or one continent with big satellites, or a archipelago whose islands add up to a continent-sized landmass. Lyr has ten such clusters separated by wide, deep seas; the largest four, Ythri, Troisleons, Diomedes and Flandry, each have about 15 million sq km of land (6M sq mi, smaller than South America).
- CONTINENT = A single landmass larger than 3 million square kilometers (1.2 million sq mi; Australia's 2.9). Even by this modest standard, only three lands on Lyr qualify: Lannach, Corona, and Troisleons. Most landmasses are broken into discontinuous... discontinents? Too awkward. Instead I use the word:
- TERRA = a land larger than a million square kilometers (400,000 sq mi). On Earth, only Greenland falls in this range, between Australia and Borneo/New Guinea. But Lyr has two dozen terras, and some, like Gaiila and Starkad, are nearly continental.
- MAINLAND = a land over 250,000 km (100,000 sq mi) or over 1000 km long--bigger than most European nations or American states, large enough so whole cultures can develop without ever seeing the sea. Earth has only five such islands: New Guinea, Borneo, Madagascar, Baffin Island and Sumatra. Britain and Honshu don't quite make it. On Lyr, 33 islands do! The nearly sixty terras and mainlands together hold most of Lyr's land.
- ISLAND = a land over 50,000 sq km (20,000 sq mi)--several hundred km wide. From Britain and Honshu down to Java, Ireland, Sri Lanka.
- ISLE = a land over 10,000 sq km (4000 sq mi)--usually 1-200 km across. Taiwan, Sicily, Vancouver Island. Hawaii and Crete are borderline...
- ISLET = a land under 100 km long, or a couple of hundred but very narrow--a few thousand sq km. Guadalcanal, Puerto Rico... Long Island.
- SKERRY, perhaps? INISH? But why get out the microscope? On a world as big as Lyr, we won't notice mere snippets like Manhattan, let alone Alcatraz or the Ile de France...
TOUR LYR! Climb volcanoes, swim seas, meet weird creatures. First: survival tips! Then, pick a region:
Ythri -- Polesotechnic Chain -- Troisleons -- Roland -- Oronesia -- Gaiila -- Flandry -- Diomedes -- Ak'hai'i -- Averorn
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