New World Map That Accurately Shows Earth in 2D Created by Scientists

Ever since we discovered Earth was round, mapmakers have struggled to create a map that accurately shows our planet in 2D.

Most notably, Africa always ends up appearing far smaller than it actually is, while other regions—including North America—are shown to be much bigger than they really are.

But now scientists have produced a new 2D map that accurately shows Earth and its continents.

The Equal Earth map projection was published earlier this year in the International Journal of Geographical Information Science. It serves as an update to the Robinson projection, used to show the planet as a flat image. But while the Robinson map did not attempt to show equal areas, the new Equal Earth map does.

Scientists Bojan Šavrič, Tom Patterson and Bernhard Jenny developed the map after a “wave of news stories” about an announcement by Boston Public Schools that it would be switching to a new map projection for its classrooms. The news highlighted the need for a better, more accurate representation of planet Earth.

“We searched for alternative equal-area map projections for world maps, but could not find any that met all our aesthetic criteria,” the scientits wrote. “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.”

What they ended up with was a map with the same shape as the Robinson projection, but then they used different “equal area” projections, which show the continents more to scale.

tgis_a_1504949_f0002_b The Equal Earth projection. ©Taylor & Francis Group, 2018. All rights reserved.

tgis_a_1504949_f0006_b The Equal Earth and popular Robinson projection. ©Taylor & Francis Group, 2018. All rights reserved.

“The Robinson and Equal Earth projections share a similar outer shape,” they wrote. “Upon close inspection, however, the way that they differ becomes apparent. The Equal Earth with a height-to-width ratio of 1:2.05 is slightly wider than the Robinson at 1:1.97. On the Equal Earth, the continents in tropical and mid-latitude areas are more elongated (north to south) and polar areas are more flattened. This is a consequence of Equal Earth being equal-area in contrast to the Robinson that moderately exaggerates high-latitude areas.”

tgis_a_1504949_f0001_b Various equal-area projections, including Equal Earth, showing Earth to scale. ©Taylor & Francis Group, 2018. All rights reserved.

Concluding, the authors said Equal Earth could provide a solution to Boston Public Schools and any other organization in need of a world map that accurately reflects the sizes of countries.

Since its publication, the Equal Earth map has been welcomed by various experts, including a number of NASA scientists. Climate Scientist Gavin Schmidt said it was “astonishing” that we are still using global maps on old projections, while NASA’s Joshua Stevens‏ announced that the Goddard Institute for Space Studies' global map projector now included the Equal Earth Projection.

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