The Mercator Problems

The Mercator map is a cylindrical map projection first introduced by the Flemish geographer and cartographer, Gerardus Mercator, in 1569. The projection is the most heavily used in our society -appearing everywhere from books to apps to Google Maps – and tends to be what most of us think of
when pondering the world map.

However, it has a major flaw, since it drastically distorts the size of objects approaching the poles. North America, Greenland, and Russia have at least part of their land masses relatively close to the
The North Pole, while only the tips of Africa and South America are close to the South Pole. This leads to an exaggeration of the size of land masses in the Northern Hemisphere.

Take Greenland and Africa, for example. On the Mercator map, Greenland appears to be about the same size as Africa, when in reality, Africa is 14 times the size of Greenland.

If one were to calculate the areas of various land masses, based on their physical representations on a Mercator map, the areas would differ greatly than the actual areas of each of those land masses, particularly for those in the Southern Hemisphere. The chart below shows those differences.

Mercator and Actual Areas

The Mercator Problems


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