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Concept# Tissot's indicatrix

Summary

In cartography, a Tissot's indicatrix (Tissot indicatrix, Tissot's ellipse, Tissot ellipse, ellipse of distortion) (plural: "Tissot's indicatrices") is a mathematical contrivance presented by French mathematician Nicolas Auguste Tissot in 1859 and 1871 in order to characterize local distortions due to map projection. It is the geometry that results from projecting a circle of infinitesimal radius from a curved geometric model, such as a globe, onto a map. Tissot proved that the resulting diagram is an ellipse whose axes indicate the two principal directions along which scale is maximal and minimal at that point on the map.
A single indicatrix describes the distortion at a single point. Because distortion varies across a map, generally Tissot's indicatrices are placed across a map to illustrate the spatial change in distortion. A common scheme places them at each intersection of displayed meridians and parallels. These schematics are important in the study of map projections, both to illustrate distortion and to provide the basis for the calculations that represent the magnitude of distortion precisely at each point. Because all ellipses on the map occupy the same area, the distortion imposed by the map projection is evident.
There is a one-to-one correspondence between the Tissot indicatrix and the metric tensor of the map projection coordinate conversion.
Tissot's theory was developed in the context of cartographic analysis. Generally the geometric model represents the Earth, and comes in the form of a sphere or ellipsoid.
Tissot's indicatrices illustrate linear, angular, and areal distortions of maps:
A map distorts distances (linear distortion) wherever the quotient between the lengths of an infinitesimally short line as projected onto the projection surface, and as it originally is on the Earth model, deviates from 1. The quotient is called the scale factor. Unless the projection is conformal at the point being considered, the scale factor varies by direction around the point.

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Conformal map projection

In cartography, a conformal map projection is one in which every angle between two curves that cross each other on Earth (a sphere or an ellipsoid) is preserved in the image of the projection; that is, the projection is a conformal map in the mathematical sense. For example, if two roads cross each other at a 39° angle, their images on a map with a conformal projection cross at a 39° angle. A conformal projection can be defined as one that is locally conformal at every point on the map, albeit possibly with singular points where conformality fails.

Map projection

In cartography, a map projection is any of a broad set of transformations employed to represent the curved two-dimensional surface of a globe on a plane. In a map projection, coordinates, often expressed as latitude and longitude, of locations from the surface of the globe are transformed to coordinates on a plane. Projection is a necessary step in creating a two-dimensional map and is one of the essential elements of cartography. All projections of a sphere on a plane necessarily distort the surface in some way and to some extent.

Equal-area projection

In cartography, an equivalent, authalic, or equal-area projection is a map projection that preserves relative area measure between any and all map regions. Equivalent projections are widely used for thematic maps showing scenario distribution such as population, farmland distribution, forested areas, and so forth, because an equal-area map does not change apparent density of the phenomenon being mapped. By Gauss's Theorema Egregium, an equal-area projection cannot be conformal.

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