Map Projections

Compiled by Mark Francek (more info) at Carleton College (more info) (SERC) and Central Michigan University (more info)

Find animations showing why distortion when cartographers attempt to fit a three dimensional surface upon a flat planar surface like a map. Also featured are several map projections intended to minimize map projections.

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Projections, Wiley ( This site may be offline. ) Map projections allow the three dimensional surface of a globe to be more realistically placed on a two dimensional surface. The Flash animation, with accompanying audio, reviews the basic characteristics of cylindrical, conical, planar, and Goode's projections and the type of distortions associated with each projection. No map projection can perfectly capture the earth's surface to simultaneously depict distance, area, and direction without distortion. The video loads slowly.

Flattening Earth, Exploring Earth (more info) This quick loading Flash animation shows what happens when the surface of a globe is pulled off and placed on a flat surface. Note the gaps that are produced when the scene changes from a round, three dimensional surface to a flat, two dimensional surface. To see how these gaps are reconciled to produce a seamless map, see the Wiley animation on projections. Show this video as an introduction. The video can be paused and rewound to stress important points.