The Greenland Problem

Most people are accustomed to using Mercator projection maps. Although this projection is fine for many purposes, it’s not the best way to represent an area that covers many degrees of latitude. For example, southern Greenland (near the north pole) is actually smaller than the Arabian peninsula (near the equator).

Why does southern Greenland (red box, above) look bigger than the Arabian peninsula (middle of green box, above) in Mercator projection maps?


In the image below, the earth is viewed as a hemisphere (“hemi” is “half” in Latin and Greek). Because our spherical planet has not been “flattened” onto a map, the relative sizes of landmasses is not distorted.

2. Yellow boxes outline the two areas we are going to compare in this Mercator Projection:

  • southeastern U.S.
  • Antarctic peninsula.

3. Click here to learn more about this image.