Are All World Maps Wrong?

Geoawesomeness got my attention today by featuring a You Tube video done by Vox folks a few months ago. The Vox video points out that basically all world maps are wrong in how projections of land masses are variously shown. Aleks Buczkowski from Geoawesomeness gave a lead-in to the Vox video in his posting on it by saying:

Projecting a round surface of the Earth on a flat surface is not an easy task. Scientists are trying to find an optimal way to do it for centuries. In fact the most common map projection that we use almost everyday in Google Maps and other mapping services, has been introduced in 1569 by Gerardus Mercator.

The video from Vox does help to explain the intricacies of map projections and is really worth watching:

Rising Seas and Carbon Footprint Visualizations

National Geographic

National Geographic “Rising Seas” map of projected North American shoreline change from ice melt. Map from:

New sets of interactive maps help to visualize both the impact of rising seas on the world’s coastlines and U.S household carbon footprints.National Geographic has posted a set of world-wide interactive maps that show new coastal outlines resulting from the premise of all ice melting and thus raising sea level approximately 216 feet. As noted by the authors:

There are more than five million cubic miles of ice on Earth, and some scientists say it would take more than 5,000 years to melt it all. If we continue adding carbon to the atmosphere, we’ll very likely create an ice-free planet, with an average temperature of perhaps 80 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the current 58.

Continuing on the topic of adding carbon to the atmosphere, University of Berkeley researchers, Christopher Jones and Daniel Kammen, looked at the spatial distribution of U.S. household carbon footprints. The researchers first point out the obvious in that carbon footprints in densely populated areas are typically low because of smaller residences, shorter commutes, and the availability of mass transit. Here’s the catch though – the suburbs have an unusually large carbon footprint and are always in serious need of carbon management. In fact, the footprint is so large that it negates the “green” urban core. As Jones and Kammen summarize:

As a policy measure to reduce GHG emissions, increasing population density appears to have severe limitations and unexpected trade-offs. In suburbs, we find more population- dense suburbs actually have noticeably higher HCF, largely because of income effects. Population density does correlate with lower HCF when controlling for income and household size; however, in practice population density measures may have little control over income of residents. Increasing rents would also likely further contribute to pressures to suburbanize the suburbs, leading to a possible net increase in emissions. As a policy measure for urban cores, any such strategy should consider the larger impact on surrounding areas, not just the residents of population dense communities themselves. The relationship is also log?linear, with a 10-fold increase in population density yielding only a 25% decrease in HCF. Generally, we find no evidence for net GHG benefits of population density in urban cores or suburbs when considering effects on entire metropolitan areas.

U.S. Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint by Household.

U.S. Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint by Household. “Source: UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network, Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint (2013)”

Between the Lines with Map Legends

In her continuing blog series, “The Hidden Meanings of Maps”,  Anne-Laure Freant’s new posting focuses on map legends. As noted in her blog:

Most cartographers neglect map legends. They put a lot of effort in the projection and scale choice, data and pretty colors selection, but then they just want to add a powerful title and press the “share” button. That is a mistake, as the cartographical legend is the key to understand the map. It is like building a beautiful door and forgetting to put a keyhole on it. It sounds obvious to say, but it is a major communication issue found in very prestigious media maps, still today. When maps were made by hand, making the legend was part of a very artistic process. This article puts side by side recent maps made with computers and ancient ones, drawn by hand, on purpose, to illustrate better the importance of skills and knowledge over technology when it comes to mapping.

Once again, for anyone who works with maps, Ms. Freant’s new posting is well worth reading.

Lifelines and earthquake hazards in the greater Seattle area (From:

A map legend example: “Lifelines and Earthquake Hazards in the Greater Seattle Area” (From:


The Hidden Intent of Map Makers?


Hawaii's volcanoes revealed - U.S. Geological Survey Geologic Investigations Series I-2809 by Barry W. Eakins, Joel E. Robinson, Toshiya Kanamatsu, Jiro Naka, John R. Smith, Eiichi Takahashi, and David A. Clague.

A map example: Hawaii’s volcanoes revealed – U.S. Geological Survey Geologic Investigations Series I-2809 by Barry W. Eakins, Joel E. Robinson, Toshiya Kanamatsu, Jiro Naka, John R. Smith, Eiichi Takahashi, and David A. Clague.

The blog series, The Hidden Meanings of Maps posted by Anne-Laure Freant, is well worth reading for all who make and use maps. The main theme to the blog set is basically – how well does a map carry its meaning to viewers? The map making blog series  includes the following topics:

–  The Projection Choice

– Why Scale Matters

– Design and Colours

– Between the Lines of Legends

– The Art of Data Selection

– Making a point of Mapping

As Ms. Freant notes:

Just like the photographer or the painter, the map maker turns into a messenger bringing back data “from above” to the people “on the ground”.  It is not meaningless, and it is certainly never purely objective.

The first three blogs in the series are now posted. The postings include map scale, map projection, and map design and colors.