Know : Error with our World Maps!

The earth is round. The challenge of any world map is to represent a round earth on a flat surface. There are literally thousands of map projections. Each has certain strengths and corresponding weaknesses. Choosing among them is an exercise in values clarification: you have to decide what’s important to you. That is generally determined by the way you intend to use the map. 


The Greenland Problem


English: world map with Mercator projection

English: world map with Mercator projection (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Mercator projection creates increasing distortions of size as you move away from the equator. As you get closer to the poles the distortion becomes severe. Cartographers refer to the inability to compare size on a Mercator projection as “the Greenland Problem.” Greenland appears to be the same size as Africa, yet Africa’s land mass is actually fourteen times larger (see figure below right). Because the Mercator distorts size so much at the poles it is common to crop Antarctica off the map. This practice results in the Northern Hemisphere appearing much larger than it really is. Typically, the cropping technique results in a map showing the equator about 60% of the way down the map, diminishing the size and importance of the developing countries.


This was convenient, psychologically and practically, through the eras of colonial domination when most of the world powers were European. It suited them to maintain an image of the world with Europe at the center and looking much larger than it really was. Was this conscious or deliberate? Probably not, as most map users probably never realized the Eurocentric bias inherent in their world view. When there are so many other projections to chose from, why is it that today the Mercator projection is still such a widely recognized image used to represent the globe? The answer may be simply convention or habit. The inertia of habit is a powerful force.


The Greenland Problem


The North compared to the South


  • The North is 18.9 million square miles.
  • The South is 38.6 million square miles.


Europe compared to South America


  • Europe is 3.8 million square miles.
  • South America is 6.9 million square miles.


Africa compared to the Former Soviet Union


  • The former Soviet Union is 8.7 million square miles.
  • Africa is 11.6 million square miles.


Greenland Compared to China


  • Greenland is 0.8 million square miles.
  • China is 3.7 million square miles.




Which is bigger, Greenland or China? With the traditional Mercator map (circa 1569, and still in use in many schoolrooms and boardrooms today), Greenland and China look the same size. But in reality China is almost 4 times larger! In response to such discrepancies, Dr. Arno Peters created a new world map that dramatically improves the accuracy of how we see the Earth.
Mercator’s projection (created at a time when navigators were sailing on the oceans in wooden ships, powered by the wind, and navigating by the stars) was particularly useful because straight lines on his projection were lines of constant compass bearing. Today the Mercator projection still remains useful for navigational purposes and is referred to by seafarers and airline pilots.

The Mercator is also a “conformal” map projection. This means that it shows shapes pretty much the way they appear on the globe. The mapmaker’s dilemma is that you cannot show both shape and size accurately. If you want a true shape for the land masses you will necessarily sacrifice proportionality, i.e., the relative sizes will be distorted.

There are few other advanced versions which are proportionally fair, Now out on the internet as we searched to find the legitimacy of this information. Here are some commonly available maps reliable than Mercator’s

Courtesy : Wikipedia


Source and Courtesy : , Wikipedia & Google

6 thoughts on “Know : Error with our World Maps!

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  4. Pingback: Know : Error with our World Maps! | mapsworldwide blog

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