New world map depicts continents true to their actual size
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New world map depicts continents true to their actual size

The three cartographers created the Equal Earth map in response to public schools in Boston adopting another map, the Gall-Peter map projection, to depict the true sizes of the continents in 2017.

world Updated: Aug 23, 2018 08:40 IST
Anonna Dutt
Anonna Dutt
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
New world map,World Map,Equal Earth Map
An equal area map projection retains the size of the continents as on earth, but distorts the shape or the angle of the landmass

A collaboration of three cartographers has developed a new representation of the world map, which is aesthetically pleasing and depicts the true sizes of all continents without distorting their shapes too much.

The new map, called the Equal Earth Map Projection, was developed by Bojan Savric from the Environmental Systems Research Institute in California; Tom Patterson, executive director of North American Cartographic Information Society based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Bernhard Jenny from Monash University in Melbourne.

The standard map projection, called the Mercator projection, was developed in 1569 and is still widely used. However, it heavily distorts the size of the continents, making Africa look tiny and Greenland and Russia stretched out.

Fixing distortions on maps
The standard map projection, which has been in use for more than five centuries, exaggerates areas far from the equator. The Equal Earth map aims to fix this
EQUAL EARTH: This map depicts the true sizes of all the continents without distorting their shapes too much
MERCATOR PROJECTION: This map, created by Gerardus Mercator in 1569, is widely used for navigation charts because a straight line on the map is a line of constant true bearing However, as latitudes increase, the size of objects are misrepresented — for example, Greenland appears larger than Africa, but in reality, Africa’s area is 14 times greater
All maps necessarily distort earth’s surface area in some fashion because it is near-impossible to replicate the 3D view of our planet in 2D

The longitudes of the new map are equally spaced and do not excessively curve outwards. Instead, they mimic the appearance of the elliptical arcs of the globe, making the new map visually appealing.

The height-to-width aspect ratio of 1:2.05458 is very close to the natural ratio of a sphere and pole lines are 0.59247 times the length of the equator.

The three cartographers created the Equal Earth map in response to public schools in Boston adopting another map, the Gall-Peter map projection, to depict the true sizes of the continents in 2017.

“The reaction among cartographers to this announcement, and others like it in the years past, was predictable: frustration. Our message – that Gall-Peters is not the only equal-area projection – was not getting through,” the authors wrote in a recently published paper in the International Journal of Geographical Information Science.

“We searched for alternative equal-area map projections for world maps, but could not find any that met all our aesthetic criteria. Hence the idea was born to create a new projection that would have more ‘eye appeal’ compared to existing equal-area projections and to give it the catchy name Equal Earth,” the authors explained.

A map projection is the two dimensional translation of the shape of the earth. All map projections necessarily distort the surface area in some fashion because it is near-impossible to replicate the three-dimensional earth in two-dimensions. An equal area map projection retains the size of the continents as on earth, but distorts the shape or the angle of the landmass.

Robinson projection, which was developed in 1963 and is seen in books, is considered to be aesthetically pleasing, but it distorts the size and shape of the continents.

The Gall Peters projection is an equal area map but squishes the mid-latitude and tropical continents in such a way that they appear to be elongated and the continents towards the pole are stretched.

First Published: Aug 23, 2018 08:26 IST