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Astronaut photograph ISS050-E-66060 courtesy NASA Earth Observation Lab.

A Gentle Introduction to GDAL, Part 2: Map Projections & gdalwarp

The first photograph showing a curve on Earth’s horizon, taken on November 11, 1935. Courtesy Jerry Bryant, Lawrence County Historical Society.
Large parts of California and Nevada are visible in this photograph taken from the Internation Space Station on October 19, 2014. Astronaut photograph ISS041-E-081461 courtesy NASA Earth Observation Lab.
The Western Hemisphere on April 7, 2017. From DSCOVR’s EPIC instrument.
The earliest known globe was crafted in 1492 — the same year Columbus sailed to America (but before he came back—note the lack of the Americas). To construct a globe this printed map would have been cut out and folded into a sphere, with the poles pasted on. Composite: Globe Gores 1–4. Martin Behaim’s Erdapfel, 1492. Courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection.
Mercator, Mollweide, and Southern Hemisphere polar stereographic maps. Made with Natural Earth.
Coordinate System is:GEOGCS["WGS 84",DATUM["WGS_1984",SPHEROID["WGS 84",6378137,298.257223563,AUTHORITY["EPSG","7030"]],AUTHORITY["EPSG","6326"]],PRIMEM["Greenwich",0],UNIT["degree",0.0174532925199433],AUTHORITY["EPSG","4326"]]
Natural Earth I with Shaded Relief and Water. This is in a very common projection with way too many names: Plate Carrée, equirectangular, equidistant cylindrical, simple cylindrical, rectangular, lat-lon, geographic projection, WGS 84, or EPSG:4326. It’s simply an even grid of latitude and longitude, centered at 0˚north 0˚south. Made with Natural Earth.
gdal_translate -r lanczos -tr 0.1 0.1  -co COMPRESS=LZW NE1_50M_SR_W.tif NE1_50M_SR_W_tenth.tif

gdalwarp & the Mercator Projection

gdalwarp -t_srs EPSG:3395 -r lanczos -wo SOURCE_EXTRA=1000 -co COMPRESS=LZW NE1_50M_SR_W_tenth.tif NE1_50M_SR_W_tenth_mercator.tif
An (almost) global map using the Mercator projection. Since the Mercator projection stretches to infinity at the poles, the highest northern and southern latitudes are automatically clipped via mysterious GDAL guesstimates. Made with Natural Earth.

The Mollweide Projection

gdalwarp -t_srs '+proj=moll +lon_0=0 +x_0=0 +y_0=0 +ellps=WGS84 +datum=WGS84 +units=m +no_defs' -r lanczos -dstalpha -wo SOURCE_EXTRA=1000 -co COMPRESS=LZW NE1_50M_SR_W_tenth.tif NE1_50M_SR_W_tenth_mollweide.tif
The Mollweide projection, which is equal-area and has the bonus feature of maintaining straight lines of latitude. Made with Natural Earth.

The Polar Stereographic Projection

gdal_translate -of VRT -projwin -180 -60 180 -90 NE1_50M_SR_W_tenth.tif NE1_50M_SR_W_SH60.vrt
gdalwarp -t_srs EPSG:3976 -ts 7200 0 -r near -dstalpha -wo SOURCE_EXTRA=1000 -co COMPRESS=LZW NE1_50M_SR_W_SH60.vrt NE1_50M_SR_W_sh60_polarstereo.tif
gdal_translate -of PNG -outsize 1400 0 -r bilinear NE1_50M_SR_W_sh60_polarstereo.tif NE1_50M_SR_W_sh60_polarstereo_1400.png
A polar stereographic projection, centered on the South Pole and extending to 60˚ south. Notice how razor-sharp the edge is—that’s the result of the render large then downsize technique, combined with lossless compression. Made with Natural Earth.

Further Reading

  1. A Gentle Introduction to GDAL
  2. Map Projections & gdalwarp (you are here)
  3. Geodesy & Local Map Projections



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Robert Simmon

Data Visualization, Planet Labs. Ex-NASA. Blue Marble, Earth at Night, color.