Randall Munroe humorously proclaims that he'd want to live in an example map in a geography book;


That means that the geography varies wildly in a small area.

Assuming the following:

  • This is on Earth or an Earth-like planet.
  • For the sake of this question, use the exact map above, including the location of the house.
  • The map is to scale (i.e. even though there's no explicit scale, the implicit one is consistent).

My question is threefold;

  • How could an area with this geography come to exist?
    • Preferably naturally, but artificially is OK.
  • Can this area be stable? For example, will a flood irreparably change the landscape?
  • Would the area marked "my house" be livable, assuming it's self-sufficient or able to access a nearby town?
  • $\begingroup$ How small is small? There's no real way to tell scale. A dot on the map is not the size of an object, it's just a marker. What are we talking about in square miles? $\endgroup$ Aug 14, 2016 at 19:27

2 Answers 2


I see a problem having a mesa that close to a volcano. Dropping a volcano requirement, take a look at Santa Marta, Columbia. It is not clear at the satellite view, but the area right East (and in the rain shadow of) Santa Marta mountain is a Guajira desert.

Totally natural, and AFAIK perfectly stable for at least few millennia.

And yes, I'd love to have my house there.


I'm not so sure about how such an area could come into existence. But I can offer my thoughts regarding its stability.

Being on a flat plain among rivers and deltas, with hills on one side and mountains on the other side, I can see what would be worrying me. Water!

I'm going to assume since there is a desert to the west and a forest to the south that the whole area is low on rainfall, it's rare to see rainfall change so drastically in a small area so the existence of the forest must be explained by water, either from a strong tide or the melting of the glacier. In either case, the water has only two places to go, the forest, and the plains where your house is.

I strongly recommend gathering some wood and either building a tree house or a boat, and best make it quick! I don't like the ominous stare of that nearby volcano, it's obviously not erupted in a while, otherwise the forest would have been badly damaged, and it looks pretty active, so is probably due a big one soon!


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