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Visualizing the True Size of Land Masses from Largest to Smallest

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The True Size of Nations

Note: Some of the land areas depicted in this graphic by Art.Lebedev are shown in separate components (e.g. U.S. and Malaysia) or are disputed and/or occupied territories (e.g. Abkhazia, Crimea, and Taiwan).

The True Size of Land Masses from Largest to Smallest

Is Greenland the size of the entire African continent?

No…

But looking at a map based on the Mercator projection, you would think so.

Today’s infographic comes from the design studio Art.Lebedev and shows the true size of the world’s land masses in order from largest to smallest using data from NASA and Google.

Check out the actual shape and size of each land mass without any distortions.

Distorting Reality: Mercator Misconceptions

Maps can deceive your eyes but they are still powerful tools for specific purposes. In 1569, the legendary cartographer, Gerardus Mercator, created a new map based on a cylindrical projection of sections of the Earth. These types of maps were suited for nautical navigation since every line on the sphere is a constant course, or loxodrome.

Despite the map’s nautical utility, the Mercator projection has an unwanted downside. The map type increases the sizes of land masses close to the poles (such as in North America, Europe, or North Asia) as a side effect. As a result, Canada and Russia appear to take up approximately 25% of the Earth’s surface, when in reality these nations only occupy 5%.

“Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many.” – Phaedrus

This collection of images above represents the world’s land masses in their correct proportions. Measurements are based on Google Maps 2016 and NASA Earth Observatory maps, with calculations based on the WGS84 reference ellipsoid, or more simply, a specific model of the Earth’s shape in two dimensions.

We take for granted Google Maps and satellite imaging. Making these accurate representations is no small task – the designers went through six steps and many different iterations of the graphic.

Countries are arranged by descending size and shown without external or dependent territories. For example, the total area for the contiguous United States shown does not include Hawaii, Alaska, or overseas territories.

Top 10 Largest Land Masses

Although Mercator maps distort the size of land masses in the Northern Hemisphere, many of these countries still cover massive territories.

JurisdictionArea (km²)
Russia16,440,626
Antarctica12,269,609
China9,258,246
Canada8,908,366
Brazil8,399,858
United States (contiguous)7,654,643
Australia7,602,329
India3,103,770
Argentina2,712,060
Kazakhstan2,653,464

The top 10 land masses by size account for 55% of the Earth’s total land. The remainder is split by the world’s 195 or so other countries.

Top 10 Smallest Land Masses

Here are the 10 tiniest jurisdictions highlighted on the map:

JurisdictionArea (km²)
Sealand0.001
Kingman Reef0.002
Vatican City0.5
Kure Atoll0.9
Tromelin Island1
Johnston Atoll1
Baker Island1
Howland Island2
Monaco2
Palmyra Atoll3

While the Earth’s land surface has been claimed by many authorities, the actual impact of human activity is less than one would think.

Human Impact: Humbled by Nature

Political borders have claimed virtually every piece of land available. Despite this, only 20% of land on the planet has been visibly impacted by human activity, and only 15% of Earth’s land surface is formally under protection.

The remaining 80% of the land hosts natural ecosystems that help to purify air and water, recycle nutrients, enhance soil fertility, pollinate plants, and break down waste products. The value of maintaining these services to the human economy is worth trillions of U.S. dollars each year.

While some nations are not as big as they look on the map, every piece of land counts.

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Misc

Animation: How the European Map Has Changed Over 2,400 Years

The history of Europe is breathtakingly complex, but this animation helps makes sense of 2,400 years of change on the European map.

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history of europe video

How the European Map Has Changed Over 2,400 Years

The history of Europe is breathtakingly complex. While there are rare exceptions like Andorra and Portugal, which have had remarkably static borders for hundreds of years, jurisdiction over portions of the continent’s landmass have changed hands innumerable times.

Today’s video comes to us from YouTube channel Cottereau, and it shows the evolution of European map borders starting from 400 BC. Empires rise and fall, invasions sweep across the continent, and modern countries slowly begin to take shape (with the added bonus of an extremely dramatic instrumental).

Below are nine highlights and catalysts that shifted the dividing lines of the European map:

146 BC – A Year of Conquest

146 BC was a year of conquest and expansion for the Roman Republic. The fall of Carthage left the Romans in control of territory in North Africa, and the ransack and destruction of the Greek city-state of Corinth also kickstarted an era of Roman influence in that region. These decisive victories paved the way for the Roman Empire’s eventual domination of the Mediterranean.

117 AD – Peak Roman Empire

The peak of the Roman Empire is one of the more dramatic moments shown on this animated European map. At its height, under Trajan, the Roman Empire was a colossal 1.7 million square miles (quite a feat in an era without motorized vehicles and modern communication tools). This enormous empire remained mostly intact until 395, when it was irreparably split into Eastern and Western regions.

Extent of the Roman Empire on European Map

370 AD – The Arrival of the Huns

Spurred on by severe drought conditions in Central Asia, the Huns reached Europe and found a Roman Empire weakened by currency debasement, economic instability, overspending, and increasing incursions from rivals along its borders.

The Huns waged their first attack on the Eastern Roman Empire in 395, but it was not until half a century later—under the leadership of Attila the Hun—that hordes pushed deeper into Europe, sacking and razing cities along the way. The Romans would later get their revenge when they attacked the quarreling Goths and Huns, bouncing the latter out of Central Europe.

1241 – The Mongol Invasion of Europe

In the mid-13th century, the “Golden Horde” led by grandsons of Genghis Khan, roared into Russia and Eastern Europe sacking cities along the way. Facing invasion from formidable Mongol forces, central European princes temporarily placed their regional conflicts aside to defend their territory. Though the Mongols were slowly pushed eastward, they loomed large on the fringes of Europe until almost the 16th century.

1362 – Lithuania

Today, Lithuania is one of Europe’s smallest countries, but at its peak in the middle ages, it was one of the largest states on the continent. A pivotal moment for Lithuania came after a decisive win at the Battle of Blue Waters. This victory stifled the expansion of the Golden Horde, and brought present-day Ukraine into its sphere of influence.

1648 – Kleinstaaterei

The end of the Holy Roman Empire highlights the extreme territorial fragmentation in Germany and neighboring regions, in an era referred to as Kleinstaaterei.

European map with Holy Roman fragments

Even as coherent nation states formed around it, the Holy Roman Empire and its remnants wouldn’t coalesce until Germany rose from the wreckage of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Unification helped position Germany as a major power, and by 1900 the country had the largest economy in Europe.

1919 – The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire—a fixture in Eastern Europe for hundreds of years—was in its waning years by the beginning of the 20th century. The empire had ceded territory in two costly wars with Italy and Balkan states, and by the time the dust cleared on WWI, the borders of the newly minted nation of Turkey began at the furthest edge of continental Europe.

1942 – Expanding and Contracting Germany

At the furthest extent of Axis territory in World War II, Germany and Italy controlled a vast portion of continental Europe. The map below shows occupied land and areas of influence at the height of Germany’s territorial expansion.

Europe at the height of German military expansion

After the war, Germany again became fragmented into occupation zones—this time, overseen by the United States, France, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. Germany would not be made whole again until 1990, when a weakening Soviet Union loosened its grip on East Germany.

1991 – Soviet Dissolution

In the decades following WWII, the political boundaries of the European map remained relatively stable—that is, until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Almost overnight, the country’s entire western border splintered into independent nations. When the dust settled, there were 15 breakaway republics, six of which were in Europe.

Soviet Union successions

Bonus: If you liked the video above, be sure to watch this year-by-year account of who ruled territories across Europe.

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Markets

Visualizing Social Risk in the World’s Top Investment Hubs

In a third of the world’s top investment hubs, citizens face significant threats to their civil, political, and labor rights.

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Social Risk

Visualizing the Social Risk of the World’s Top Investment Hubs

As social responsibility becomes an important aspect of doing business, it’s more crucial than ever for decision-makers to understand the risks associated with various global markets.

This graphic, using data from a report by Verisk Maplecroft, looks at the world’s top cities for foreign direct investment (FDI) and assesses their relative levels of social risk.

In the article below, we’ll take a look at the research methodology to explain how risk was assessed in the report and touch on some key markets that placed high on the ranking.

The Relationship Between FDI and Social Risk

To look at the relationship between FDI and social risk, the report identified the top 100 cities for FDI in 2020, using data from fDi Markets (the Financial Times’ foreign investment monitor).

From there, social risk in the top 100 FDI cities was measured using data from Verisk Maplecroft’s [email protected] Social Index​​. The index measures the social risk landscape of 575 different cities across the globe, using three key pillars:

  • Civil and political rights: the right to protest, security force abuses
  • Labor rights: child labor, modern slavery
  • Poverty: portion of population in extreme poverty

After calculating scores based on these three metrics, cities were then grouped into four categories to measure their level of social risk:

  • Low risk
  • Medium risk
  • High risk
  • Extreme risk

Based on this analysis, citizens in 33 of the top 100 cities for FDI (representing $71 billion of inward investment) are at ‘high’ or ‘extreme’ levels of social risk, meaning they face significant threats to their civil, political, and labor rights.

Of the top 100 places, Istanbul and Izmir rank the highest when it comes to overall human rights risks, largely because of labor rights violations and the exploitation of migrant and refugee workers. This is something manufacturers should take note of, especially those who outsource production to these Turkish cities.

In contrast, Beijing, which places third on the list, scores high due to China’s various civil rights issues. Other major manufacturing and commercial hubs in China, like Guangzhou and Shanghai, place high on the list as well.

Overall Social Risk Index

While a third of the top FDI cities are at high or extreme social risk, this figure is even higher when looking at all 575 cities included in the [email protected] Social Index.

social risk score of global cities

Of the 575 cities, 75% are classified as ‘high’ or ‘extreme’ risk. Mogadishu, Somalia is the highest risk city, followed by Damascus, Aleppo, and Homs in Syria, Pyongyang in North Korea, and Sanaa in Yemen.

While the high-risk cities are spread across the globe, it’s worth noting that 240 of the high and extreme risk cities are located in Asia.

Civil and Political Risk Index

In addition to the overall ranking, the report provides insight into specific human rights violations, highlighting which cities are most at risk.

civil rights risk score of global cities

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pyongyang, North Korea places first on the list when it comes to civil and political rights violations. Under the current North Korean regime, some significant civil rights violations include arbitrary arrests and detentions, the holding of political prisoners and detainees, and a lack of judicial independence.

In addition to North Korea, Syria places high on the civil rights risk index as well, with three of the top five cities located in the war-torn country.

Labor Rights Index

When focusing specifically on labor rights, almost half of the ‘high’ or ‘extreme’ risk cities are in Europe and Central Asia.

labor rights risk score of global cities

The biggest problems across a majority of ‘high’ risk cities include child labor, the exploitation of migrant workers, and modern slavery. Pakistan in particular struggles with child labor issues, with an estimated 3.3 million children in situations of forced labor.

What This Means for Foreign Investors

Understanding a country’s social landscape can help organizations make decisions on where to conduct business, especially those that prioritize ESG efforts.

And, while organizations who invest in ‘high’ risk locations aren’t directly involved in any human rights violations, being associated with a ‘high’ risk city could impact a corporation’s reputation, or cause financial damage down the line.

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