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5 surprising misconceptions about world maps

We use maps so often, but do we really look at them?

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Esri releases first-ever high-resolution (10-meter), 2020 global land cover map

Esri releases first-ever high-resolution (10-meter), 2020 global land cover map.

Business Wire

Do you think you know what the world looks like? Maybe, but maybe not. The world map has a lot of surprises hidden right in plain sight.

(Don’t worry, there’s a world map at the end for you to reference.)

1. Europe is much farther north than you probably think

And smaller than you think, says National Geographic.

Europe is not directly east of the U.S.; actually, the entire continent is much farther north. The moderate weather comparable to the continental U.S. can easily mislead people into thinking that Europe is at the same latitude as the U.S., says National Geographic.

According to Story Maps, these cities are parallel to each other across the Atlantic Ocean:

  • Paris is latitudinally parallel to Vancouver, Canada.
  • Rome is parallel to Chicago.
  • Madrid is parallel to New York City.

2. Most of Africa is north of the equator

Africa is commonly thought to be part of the Southern Hemisphere. At least, one-third of the African continent is in the Southern Hemisphere. Most of Africa — two-thirds of the landmass — is north of the equator, says National Geographic.

And while we’re talking about Africa...

3. Africa is massive

The true size of Africa is a bit shocking. The continent is bigger than the U.S., Canada and China put together, says Brilliant Maps blog. Just look:


4. South America is further east than you think it is

Most of South America is actually east of Florida. North Americans tend to think of their southern neighbors as, well, south of us. More accurately, however, the continent is south-east of North America, says Story Maps.

5. There are five oceans

As of this month, there are now five oceans, reports Deseret News. The world’s newest ocean, one surrounding Antarctica, was recognized because of its distinctive ecology.

  • What are the world’s five oceans? The Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and — the newbie — Southern Ocean.