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Many years ago I heard the astonishing bit of trivia that Reno, Nevada is actually west of Los Angeles. It doesn’t seem possible until you actually look carefully at a map, but in fact Reno is about 80 miles closer to the International Dateline than is LA. I’ve always remembered this odd fact, and when I look at the world atlas hanging on the wall in front of my work area I occasionally stumble upon other nuggets that seem hard to believe on the surface, but are undeniably true when you look closely.
I think many of us keep a simplistic version of a world map stored in our brains, but sometimes it’s a little too simple. The best example might be the notion that Europe lies directly east of the United States. Thanks to the Gulf Stream ocean currents, the climate of the Eastern U.S. is very similar to the climate of Western Europe, so it seems logical they must be similar distances from the Equator. But only the southernmost corners of Europe actually line up with the United States, and the majority of it is directly east of Canada. And it turns out that places don’t have to be across oceans to be in places some of us might find unexpected.
Here are 20 world geography facts that you might find surprising or interesting:
1. Portland, Oregon, where it rarely snows, is about 130 miles farther north than Toronto, and over 200 miles farther north than Boston.
2. On France’s southern Mediterranean coast, Cannes, the sunny summer playground of the rich, which is sometimes incorrectly called ‘tropical’, is about 10 miles farther north than Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
3. Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Cape Town, and Sydney are each thousands of miles apart and are known for having unusually pleasant year-round climates, and they are all almost identical distances from the Equator.
4. San Francisco and Melbourne, Australia are both known for mild and fast-changing climates, and they are identical distances from the Equator.
5. Estcourt Station with a population of 4 is in the northernmost tip of Maine, and it sounds like it’s probably snowed-in all winter, and yet London, England is still almost 300 miles farther north.
6. The 49th Parallel, which makes up the long and straight US/Canada border in the west, is about 120 miles north of Estcourt Station, Maine.
7. Glasgow is about 280 miles north of London. Keep going another 250 miles north for Stockholm, another 370 miles north to reach Reykjavik, and 413 miles north to reach Hammerfest, Norway, which is almost 5,000 miles north of the Equator.
8. The entire country of England, with over 50 million residents, is a wee bit smaller than the state of Louisiana.
9. If you combine England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, then together they are a bit smaller than the deceptively large state of Michigan.
10. France is about 30% larger than the state of California.
11. Crescent City, California is about 15 miles south of the Oregon border, but it’s about 10 miles farther north than Newport, Rhode Island. In other words, you can still be in California and be farther north than coastal Rhode Island.
12. Madrid, with summers so blazing hot that most people take a long break from work every afternoon, is about 10 miles farther north than Salt Lake City, Utah.
13. About two-thirds of Africa is in the Northern Hemisphere.
15. Tehran, Iran, with its scorching summers, is located on the exact same latitude as relatively mild Tokyo, Japan.
16. About 90% of the world’s population lives in the Northern Hemisphere.
17. The incredibly remote island of Tahiti is slightly east of Anchorage, Alaska, which is slightly east of Hawaii. In other words, Hawaii is closer to the 180° longitude the International Date Line is based on than is Tahiti.
18. If you are trying to get a handle on the climate of India it helps to know its northern border is the same as the northern border of Mexico in Tijuana, and the southern border is about the same as the southern border of Panama.
19. Sunny and just-barely-tropical Rio de Janeiro is about 25 miles farther from the equator than Hong Kong.
20. Scientists recently discovered that Florida and Hudson Bay in Canada are getting about 1 inch closer every 36 years. Pass the SPF-30, eh?
Read more fun geography facts:
- The Coldest Places on Every Continent
- 11 Hottest Travel Destinations…Seriously
- 6 of the Least Densely Populated Nations in the World