Here are 13 really aggravating things about the map of the United States

Look at this mess. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

I've just returned from two weeks on the road in the United States. Mostly I was thinking about the election (and in the unlikely event you want to know what I made of that whole trauma, you can find out over on the New Statesman website), but obviously I also spent a lot of time thinking about maps.

Specifically, I was thinking about quite how ludicrous the map of those United States actually is. To whit:


Why is it even a state? I mean, really? Ether it should get to have the whole of that peninsula it sits on, or it should stop mucking around and become part of Maryland. The current situation is just ridiculous.


You know how long it takes to cross Delaware by car?


Fourteen minutes, that's how long it takes.

The only reason they let Delaware be a state is because it was the first one to ratify the US constitution and now everyone's too embarrassed to tell them.

While we're at it:

That ridiculous peninsula that Delaware sits on

The Delmarva peninsula includes bits of three different states. Why? Just why?

I'll tell you why: because they named it Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) and now it's too awkward to change it. Think before you name, guys.

What’s more:


What the fuck is this?

Just look at it:


You know what this reminds me of?

Turns out, the US came pre-gerrymandered.

West Virginia

Okay, this one's not really a geographical point, but there are places in West Virginia, as there are all over the south, where you can find the Confederate flag.

Which is odd, in its way, because: West Virginia was never part of the Confederacy. More than that, the state only exists because it split from Virginia because it wanted to stay with the Union.

So today in West Virginia there are those who profess loyalty to the ideas of a rebellion that their forefathers explicitly repudiated. Which is nice.

The Florida panhandle

Fun fact! If that sticky-out-bit was part of Alabama and Georgia, as it very obviously should be, then Florida would have voted Democrat, and Hillary Clinton would, well, she'd still be nine electoral votes short of being president elect right now, but she'd be a damn sight closer. (Yes, I had to correct this bit after a reader pointed out it was wrong. Don't judge me.)

Upper Michigan

Look at this:

Dividing those two peninsulas are the Straits of Mackinac, which divide lakes Michigan and Huron. The straits are five miles across at their narrowest point – indeed, on some definitions, Michigan and Huron are actually a single lake.

Which begs the question: why is the northern of those two landmasses a part of Michigan at all? It should obviously be part of Wisconsin. This is a very poor show.

(Upper Michigan, incidentally, contains nearly a third of the state's land, but just 3 per cent of its population. Don't say we never teach you anything.)


The southernmost tip of Alaska is approximately 510 miles from the nearest point of the continental United States. Alaska is "in" the US in the same way that Essex is "in" Switzerland. Give it up, guys, you're part of Canada.


Oh, Hawaii gets to be a state, but not Guam? It’s a US territory, and home to 160,000 people. Where's the love for Guam, guys? Why doesn't Guam get to be a state? Really at this point I'm just enjoying the excuses to keep saying Guam. "Guam".





New York

Okay you're just taking the piss now.

The entire west

Here's Utah, an apparently average sized western state, placed over New England:

I mean, it's about the same size, right? Except that New England contains six different states, and Utah contains just one.

It's like, the further west the US got, the less effort it could be bothered to put into creating new states. An area bigger than Great Britain? Shall we carve it up? Meh, who has the time. Just call it Nevada.

The sheer laziness of it.

The square states

The US has not one, but two, states that are, in effect, perfect rectangles.

The whole West is one big grid system. 

I mean, they're not really, because they're big enough that the curvature of the Earth comes into effect. But nonetheless – what kind of ludicrous country is this?

Anyway, I’m home now. It’s fine. Everything is going to be fine.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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Maps courtesy of Google.



The IPPC report on the melting ice caps makes for terrifying reading

A Greeland iceberg, 2007. Image: Getty.

Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the UN body responsible for communicating the science of climate breakdown – released its long-awaited Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

Based on almost 7,000 peer-reviewed research articles, the report is a cutting-edge crash course in how human-caused climate breakdown is changing our ice and oceans and what it means for humanity and the living planet. In a nutshell, the news isn’t good.

Cryosphere in decline

Most of us rarely come into contact with the cryosphere, but it is a critical part of our climate system. The term refers to the frozen parts of our planet – the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, the icebergs that break off and drift in the oceans, the glaciers on our high mountain ranges, our winter snow, the ice on lakes and the polar oceans, and the frozen ground in much of the Arctic landscape called permafrost.

The cryosphere is shrinking. Snow cover is reducing, glaciers and ice sheets are melting and permafrost is thawing. We’ve known this for most of my 25-year career, but the report highlights that melting is accelerating, with potentially disastrous consequences for humanity and marine and high mountain ecosystems.

At the moment, we’re on track to lose more than half of all the permafrost by the end of the century. Thousands of roads and buildings sit on this frozen soil – and their foundations are slowly transitioning to mud. Permafrost also stores almost twice the amount of carbon as is present in the atmosphere. While increased plant growth may be able to offset some of the release of carbon from newly thawed soils, much will be released to the atmosphere, significantly accelerating the pace of global heating.

Sea ice is declining rapidly, and an ice-free Arctic ocean will become a regular summer occurrence as things stand. Indigenous peoples who live in the Arctic are already having to change how they hunt and travel, and some coastal communities are already planning for relocation. Populations of seals, walruses, polar bears, whales and other mammals and sea birds who depend on the ice may crash if sea ice is regularly absent. And as water in its bright-white solid form is much more effective at reflecting heat from the sun, its rapid loss is also accelerating global heating.

Glaciers are also melting. If emissions continue on their current trajectory, smaller glaciers will shrink by more than 80 per cent by the end of the century. This retreat will place increasing strain on the hundreds of millions of people globally who rely on glaciers for water, agriculture, and power. Dangerous landslides, avalanches, rockfalls and floods will become increasingly normal in mountain areas.

Rising oceans, rising problems

All this melting ice means that sea levels are rising. While seas rose globally by around 15cm during the 20th century, they’re now rising more than twice as fast –- and this rate is accelerating.

Thanks to research from myself and others, we now better understand how Antarctica and Greenland’s ice sheets interact with the oceans. As a result, the latest report has upgraded its long-term estimates for how much sea level is expected to rise. Uncertainties still remain, but we’re headed for a rise of between 60 and 110cm by 2100.

Of course, sea level isn’t static. Intense rainfall and cyclones – themselves exacerbated by climate breakdown – can cause water to surge metres above the normal level. The IPCC’s report is very clear: these extreme storm surges we used to expect once per century will now be expected every year by mid-century. In addition to rapidly curbing emissions, we must invest millions to protect at-risk coastal and low-lying areas from flooding and loss of life.

Ocean ecosystems

Up to now, the ocean has taken up more than 90 per cent of the excess heat in the global climate system. Warming to date has already reduced the mixing between water layers and, as a consequence, has reduced the supply of oxygen and nutrients for marine life. By 2100 the ocean will take up five to seven times more heat than it has done in the past 50 years if we don’t change our emissions trajectory. Marine heatwaves are also projected to be more intense, last longer and occur 50 times more often. To top it off, the ocean is becoming more acidic as it continues to absorb a proportion of the carbon dioxide we emit.

Collectively, these pressures place marine life across the globe under unprecedented threat. Some species may move to new waters, but others less able to adapt will decline or even die out. This could cause major problems for communities that depend on local seafood. As it stands, coral reefs – beautiful ecosystems that support thousands of species – will be nearly totally wiped out by the end of the century.

Between the lines

While the document makes some striking statements, it is actually relatively conservative with its conclusions – perhaps because it had to be approved by the 195 nations that ratify the IPCC’s reports. Right now, I would expect that sea level rise and ice melt will occur faster than the report predicts. Ten years ago, I might have said the opposite. But the latest science is painting an increasingly grave picture for the future of our oceans and cryosphere – particularly if we carry on with “business as usual”.

The difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of heating is especially important for the icy poles, which warm much faster than the global average. At 1.5°C of warming, the probability of an ice-free September in the Arctic ocean is one in 100. But at 2°C, we’d expect to see this happening about one-third of the time. Rising sea levels, ocean warming and acidification, melting glaciers, and permafrost also will also happen faster – and with it, the risks to humanity and the living planet increase. It’s up to us and the leaders we choose to stem the rising tide of climate and ecological breakdown.

Mark Brandon, Professor of Polar Oceanography, The Open University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.