A polynomial equation for the Natural Earth projection

Bojan Šavrič, Bernhard Jenny, Tom Patterson, Dušan Petrovič, Loren Hurni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The Natural Earth projection is a new projection for representing the entire Earth on small-scale maps. It was designed in Flex Projector, a specialized software application that offers a graphical approach for the creation of new projections. The original Natural Earth projection defines the length and spacing of parallels in tabular form for every five degrees of increasing latitude. It is a pseudocylindrical projection, and is neither conformal nor equal-area. In the original definition, piece-wise cubic spline interpolation is used to project intermediate values that do not align with the five-degree grid. This paper introduces alternative polynomial equations that closely approximate the original projection. The polynomial equations are considerably simpler to compute and program, and require fewer parameters, which should facilitate the implementation of the Natural Earth projection in geospatial software. The polynomial expression also improves the smoothness of the rounded corners where the meridians meet the horizontal pole lines, a distinguishing trait of the Natural Earth projection that suggests to readers that the Earth is spherical in shape. Details on the least squares adjustment for obtaining the polynomial formulas are provided, including constraints for preserving the geometry of the graticule. This technique is applicable to similar projections that are defined by tabular parameters. For inverting the polynomial projection the Newton-Raphson root finding algorithm is suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-372
Number of pages10
JournalCartography and Geographic Information Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Flex projector
  • Natural earth projection
  • Projections

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