Do any of the current open source GIS softwares support discontinous projection systems? E.g. sinusoidal, dymaxion, butterfly, etc? If not, are there any affordable commercial ones that do (affordable meaning < $150)?

Upate: apparently it was a bad idea to lead with "sinusoidal", as that projection also has a single point non-interrupted form. Please note, the key word here is discontinuous or interrupted. Thanks.

Cahill's 1909 butterfly map

11 Answers 11


It's possible to construct something like the interrupted sinusoidal projection, and similar projections, by doing several (normal) sinusoidal projections and cutting & pasting them together. I'm not aware of a tool that does this (but I am not the person to ask about tools), so in the case that you have to resort to spit and glue...

  • If you look at a random example of the interrupted sinusoidal, each perfectly vertical meridian corresponds to a single sinusoidal projection.

  • For that example, you're looking at sinusoidals centered on longitudes: -160,-100,-60, ...

  • Then, cut and shift the parts to line up: The bottom left part is composed of longitudes -180..-100 and latitudes 0..-90, and projected with a center longitude of -160. The next part is longitudes -180..-40 and latitudes 0..90, projected w/ a center of -100. And so on (the example I linked was pretty intricate & there might be funny business going on in Russia; it doesn't look like a vanilla sinusoidal there).

If you're after a finished map, I would render it at to a nice high resolution georeferenced image and build the projection pieces by projecting it into each sinusoidal projection and then masking it. (Build the masks by projecting solid squares that cover the target lat/lon ranges for each piece.) If you're working with raw data, I would partition it into input pieces, taking care to split lines and polygons along any "cut" edges in the projection.

Hopefully this is a better-than-nothing answer. :)

It would be an interesting side project to automate this in a script (e.g. w/ gdalwarp)...

  • thank you for the spit and glue, I may indeed have to chop this up and attack it piecemeal; I hadn't considered that approach. Sep 8, 2010 at 16:15
  • Found a paper on that approach that uses ArcInfo - posted new answer for the 'bounty'
    – Mapperz
    Sep 12, 2010 at 12:13
  • 1
    from reading the docs, both the ArcInfo and GMT examples given thus far use this process of generating pieces and pasting together. In theory this should be adaptable to qgis, grass or whathaveyou. The arcinfo paper has spectacular detail for the process while GMT gets a nod for reducing it to 3 commands, albeit restricted to a single projection variant. Sep 13, 2010 at 21:07
  • Check my answer below, I made a program which does just that :)
    – Michał
    Feb 14, 2015 at 2:19

I have now uploaded a free and very detailed program set to generate the Cahill-Keyes Multi-scale Megamap with borders and one-degree geocell resolution at 1/1,000,000 or smaller scales. It uses the free OpenOffice.org Draw 3.0, and Perl. http://www.genekeyes.com/MEGAMAP-BETA-1/Megamap-Beta-1.html. (Check the link herein for many jpegs, pdf's, and free downloads as big as 40 MB.)

enter image description here


Here has a C program that can do coordinate transformation from (Lat,Long) to (X,Y) in the dymaxion projection. I'm not sure if this meets your criteria of open source, but it's as close as I've come.

I have not found anything to do a proper projection, but I did find this resource by Gene Keyes comparing Cahill's butterfly and Fuller's dymaxion projections, which is really nice. He has a perl script which can plot coordinates onto a dymaxion map. From there I found the basis for that script: the aforementioned site by R.W. Grey which has a C program that can do coordinate transformation and please see his note at the bottom of the page regarding terms of use for the code.


Jason Davies has produced a wide variety of interrupted projections for D3.js, such as the Waterman Butterfly:

enter image description here

Check out his site for the great work he and Mike Bostock have been doing on bringing interrupted projections to D3.


I long ago implemented Cahill-Keyes in D3.js following Gene Keyes' great documentation/code on his website. You can find it in this bl.ock

Here is a snapshot:

enter image description here


mapproj R package supports nice range of projections, sinusoidal among them.

You might also look at Jack van Wijk's Myriahedral Projections according to his paper:

All images were produced with a custom developed, integrated tool to define meshes and weights, and to calculate and render the results, running under MS Windows.

  • But does it support the discontinuous version of the sinusoidal projection?
    – underdark
    Sep 7, 2010 at 20:22
  • 1
    -1 for mapproj, which (from the docs) only supports the single point form of Sinusoidal, "sinusoidal() equally spaced parallels, equal-area, same as bonne(0)". +1 for Myriahedral which is definitely discontinuous and looks interesting. The software used appears to be private though and not available. Sep 7, 2010 at 23:25
  • 1
    @ underdark: it wasn't clear b4 update that sinusoidal has to be discontinuous, hence my suggestion. @ matt: it was created in academic setting and i guess there is a chance to get access to it from the author.
    – radek
    Sep 8, 2010 at 20:14
  • well, the question title hasn't changed ;) nvm
    – underdark
    Sep 10, 2010 at 12:15

Simulating the Interrupted Goode Homolosine Projection With ArcInfo


  • 1
    Goode's Homolosine with two interruption variants (ocean / land) was added in ArcGIS 9.2. The Fuller projection was added in 9.0.
    – mkennedy
    Feb 26, 2015 at 18:14

Take a look on GMT (Generic Mapping Tools), Main page on http://gmt.soest.hawaii.edu/ For illustrations, see http://gmt.soest.hawaii.edu/gmt/doc/gmt/pdf/GMT_Docs.pdf on page 121 of the documentation.


Gene Keyes and partner Mary Jo Graça have recently posted Cahill-Keyes Octant Graticule: Principles and Specifications with Perl programs and OpenOffice.org 2.0 macros for 1/1,000,000 Megamap under a creative commons share alike no commercial work license. Abstract "How a complete one-degree graticule of an eight-octant world map at 1/1,000,000 is made with Perl and macros in a free OpenOffice.org 2.0 vector-drawing program on a $300 Asus netbook. This is another installment of my drafting notes for the Cahill-Keyes "Real-World" map. It describes only the graticule, in intricate detail, both as hand or computer drawn archetypes. Inputting GIS data is the next challenge." The graphic in the question is from Gene's site. I didn't post about the perl & OO page until now as he hadn't gone public with the page yet.

thumbnail of the Open Office macro result

I've created mercurial source code repository of their work at http://bitbucket.org/maphew/cahill-keyes with the aim, eventually, of tackling the "getting into GIS" part. Though as of yet nothing has been done -- this is a corner of my desk project, progress will be slow. :)


As previously mentioned the C program here works well. Also available, here in javascript for openlayers.

I successfully used both, but had most success with the javascript version in adobe illustrator's scripting system. I took shape files and converted them to javascript objects, loaded them into illustrator and when drawing ran the points through the javascript projection code.

I produced a very interesting time zone map with this code.

I'm only just starting work with QGIS so i am not sure if there are any ways to have custom programatically projection like this, but I would be very interested to here about it.

  • Hi gazhay, welcome to GIS.se :) It's good practice to use the page title or some other distinguishing bit of text instead of here when linking; makes it easier to hunt down new links when the destination page inevitably succumbs to bitrot. (This also would have been better placed as a comment to the referenced "previously mentioned" answer, but I realize as a new user this isn't open to you yet). Thanks for contributing. I encourage a question and answer about the Shape > Illustrator > Openlayers workflow as it sounds interesting (gis.stackexchange.com/help/self-answer) Jun 7, 2013 at 21:38

I coded the sinusoidal interrupted projection in javascript, so it runs in web browser. You can check it here: http://www.winski.net/?page_id=12. I also support the USGS daisy petal projection.

You only need to pick your input image, sinusoidal interrupted projection from list of projections, number of gores, and click "project".

It is under BSD, so feel free to do anything you want with it :)

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