Take a look at a world map and you’re likely to think that North America and Russia are both larger than Africa.
But in reality Africa is three times bigger than North America and significantly larger than Russia too.
This strange distortion has been explored by a climate data scientist at the Met Office who has created a two dimensional representation of what the world really looks like.
His incredible map that shows that many countries – including Russia, Canada and Greenland – are not nearly as big as we think.
The world map distortion is the result of the Mercator projection, the map most commonly seen hanging in classrooms and in text books, which was created in 1596 to help sailors navigate the world.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE MERCATOR MAP?
Africa is around 14 times larger than Greenland and yet on the map both are almost same size.
Brazil is more than five times larger than Alaska, yet Alaska is larger than Brazil on the map.
The map suggests that Scandinavian countries are larger than India, whereas in reality India is three times the size of all Scandinavian countries put together.
While it looks like Europe is larger than North America on this map, in reality the reverse is true.
Russia also isn’t as large as it is depicted, with Africa larger than Russia in reality.
The biggest challenge with creating an accurate map is that it is impossible to portray the reality of the spherical world on a flat map – a problem that has troubled cartographers for centuries.
As a result, shapes of world maps have typically been diverse, ranging from hearts to cones.
But the diversity gradually faded away with one model, invented by Gerardus Mercator in 1596, which surpassed the others.
The familiar ‘Mercator’ projection gives the right shapes of land masses, but at the cost of distorting their sizes in favour of the wealthy lands to the north.
Mr Neil Kaye, a climate data scientist at Met Office, created an accurate world map that shows countries near the northern hemisphere are much smaller than people typically think.
He did this by inputting Met Office data on the sizes of each country into Ggplot, which is a data visualisation package for statistical programming.