Daily Mail Map Projection Fail

A few weeks ago the British tabloid had a report screaming ‘World of two halves! Map shows most of Northern Hemisphere is covered in snow and ice‘.

At first glance, the NASA composite satellite image they base the story around makes the headline sound plausible.

Daily Mail Fail, Misleading Snow Cover Image

Except for one problem. The the world is a globe, and any attempt to represent it on a flat map causes distortion. In this case the size of areas near the poles is massively exaggerated.

Robert Simmon writing in NASA’s Elegant Figures blog has converted the image into an equal area projection, which as it’s name suggests, shows areas at the same relative scale. From this it’s obvious the reality was much less exciting, most of the Northen Hemisphere was in fact snow and ice free.
NOAA Snow Cover Compositie Image January 2011
The story of cold, wintry weather in winter is obviously quite a complex thing to get across to their readers, so the Mail article also helpfully includes lots of pictures showing snowy scenes.


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