Why Do Certain Maps Make Land Appear So Different?

By: Tom Malone

Have you ever looked at two maps of the same Earth and wonders, Why do these look so different? Have you ever noticed that Antarctica seems to encompass the whole Southern portion of a world map, but occupies a small space on a rounded globe? Map projection is to blame.

A globe is the most accurate representation of the Earth’s surface, but it’s a little inconvenient to carry a globe around in your pocket, so cartographers (map makers) create flat maps for convenience.

Map projection shows us how a round globe is warped and projected onto a flat map.

The land area around the equator remains fairly accurate on a flat map, but cartographers need to stretch the top and bottom of a round globe in order to make it wrap around a flat map.

As the map moves North and South from the Equator, land areas will gradually appear to become larger than they really are.

Since a flat map needs to show a round world, the land area near the Poles will appear larger than they actually are.

Map Projection Fun: For a visual representation of map projection, visit True Size Of… to see the true size of each country (and I thought Greenland was so big!)
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