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New global map projection

Aug 31, 2018

The Equal Earth projection world map

Most mariners probably don't know it, but just about all the charts they use on board their boats are devised using the Mercator map projection — both coastal charts and even Universal Plotting Sheets for plotting celestial navigation work. The Mercator method of portraying the curved globe on a flat surface is highly useful for many reasons. One thing the Mercator isn't so good at, however, is showing the various land masses on the globe at their proper sizes relative to each other. There are a large number of map projections, many of which do show land areas in their proper relative sizes. A new one has just been announced called The Equal Earth map projection. 

The Equal Area projection is the work of Bojan Šavrič , Tom Patterson and Bernhard Jenny, mapmakers from the Environmental Systems Research Institute, Monash University and the North American Cartographic Information Society. The main issue these cartographers wanted to address was to to show, for example, Greenland in its proper relationship to Africa. On a Mercator world map, there is a great deal of distortion at the higher latitudes, north and south. This is because rather than the lines of longitude converging at the poles as they do on the globe, the lines of longitude on a Mercator projection stay parallel like lines of latitude. That is why Greenland looks so large in a Mercator world map. In reality the two land masses aren't even close in area. Greenland has an expanse of 836,000 square miles, while Africa has an area of 11.7 million square miles.

Šavrič, Patterson and Jenny used the Robinson Projection as their baseline and then adjusted it to fit the requirement that it show both size and shape of the landmasses as accurately as possible.The Robinson Projection has been used by National Geographic since 1988. 

Here is how the cartographers describe their new map projection:

"The Equal Earth map projection is a new equal-area pseudocylindrical projection for world maps. We created it to provide a visually pleasing alternative to the Gall-Peters projection, which some schools and organizations have adopted out of concern for fairness—they need a world map showing continents and countries at their true sizes relative to each other.
In addition to being rigorously equal-area throughout, other Equal Earth features include:

• An overall shape similar to that of the Robinson projection. (The Robinson, although popular and pleasing to the eye, is not equal-area as is the Equal Earth projection).
• The curved sides of the projection suggest the spherical form of Earth.
• Straight parallels that make it easier to compare how far north or south places are from the equator.
• Meridians are evenly spaced along any given line of latitude.
• Easy-to-implement code that runs efficiently in software."

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