A Map, A Map, My Kingdom for a Map (and NOT those things showing up in papers)
What is wrong with this figure?
No, its not the color scale or using t’ for elevation (though, um, why t’ anyways?). It is that this is not a map*. This is what GG has always called a “computer-stupid” map projection. Why? Look at the axes. Since when is one degree of latitude equal to one degree of longitude at 40°N? Look, twenty or thirty years ago you might have had an excuse. Today? No. None. Nada. Not in the age of Generic Mapping Tools or the geographic toolbox in Matlab. You could at least make a computer-stupid Mercator (that is where you simply squish the horizontal axes to approximate the latitude:longitude ratio at some point in the map; a true Mercator has a varying latitude scale). Look, maps are useful when done right. In this case, you probably want to preserve area, so you look for an equal-area projection (there are lots). In some cases (e.g., SKS split maps), you probably want to preserve angles, so you might opt for the Mercator. This map (and its many cousins in this paper) preserves nothing. Distance scales depend on what direction you are measuring, angles do not correspond to angles on the earth, area is not preserved–in short, there is absolutely nothing good to say about this. Now this is far from the only paper GG has seen with this failing, but this has got to stop (just like the insane inability to properly cite the literature). All geoscientists should be able to make a map. This is, to the Grumpy Geophysicist, a demonstration of profound inability to get the simple things right, and if you don’t get the simple things right, why believe anything else in the paper?
A partial apology: In choosing this map to act as a stand-in for GG’s rant (which, on a broad scale, he stands behind), it appears (see comments below) GG chose an example where this projection was consciously chosen–why, GG cannot figure, but as there was a deliberate reason, the innuendo in the text above is misguided. So apologies to Thorsten Becker: that last sentence should not be construed as condemning that particular paper. But GG still hates this projection.
*OK, GG is wrong. It is a map and a named projection, as Thorsten kindly pointed out below.