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All equal-area map projections are created equal, but some are more equal than others

Cartography and Geographic Information Science

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Abstract

High-resolution regional and global raster databases are currently being generated for a variety of environmental and scientific modeling applications. The projection of these data from geographic coordinates to a plane coordinate system is subject to significant areal error. Sources of error include users selecting an inappropriate projection or incorrect parameters for a given projection, algorithmic errors in commercial geographic information system (GIS) software, and errors resulting from the projection of data in the raster format. To assess the latter type of errors, the accuracy of raster projection was analyzed by two methods. First, a set of 12 one-degree by one-degree quadrilaterals placed at various latitudes was projected at several raster resolutions and compared to the projection of a vector representation of the same quadrilaterals. Second, several different raster resolutions of land cover data for Asia were projected and the total areas of 21 land cover categories were tabulated and compared. While equal-area projections are designed to specifically preserve area, the comparison of the results of the one-degree by one-degree quadrilaterals with the common equal area projections (e.g., the Mollweide) indicates a considerable variance in the one-degree area after projection. Similarly, the empirical comparison of land cover areas for Asia among various projections shows that total areas of land cover vary with projection type, raster resolution, and latitude. No single projection is best for all resolutions and all latitudes. While any of the equal-area projections tested are reasonably accurate for most applications with resolutions of eight-kilometer pixels or smaller, significant variances in accuracies appear at larger pixel sizes.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
All equal-area map projections are created equal, but some are more equal than others
Series title:
Cartography and Geographic Information Science
Volume
28
Issue:
3
Year Published:
2001
Language:
English
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Cartography and Geographic Information Science
First page:
183
Last page:
193
Number of Pages:
11