How to Find the Distance of a City From the Equator

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Where are you right now? You probably know the name of the city or town you are in, but do you know your coordinates or how far you are from the equator? Estimating your precise position on the planet in relation to the equator is a real-world application of both math and geography – and a pretty neat party trick.

The simplest method to estimate your distance from the equator relies on only your latitude in degrees, which is the first number in a set of coordinates. Since each degree of latitude represents 69 miles, you can multiply your latitude by 69 to find your distance from the equator in miles. To increase your precision, you can also use the minutes and seconds in a more precise set of coordinates. 1 minute of latitude represents 1.15 miles, and 1 second of latitude represents 101 feet.

Understanding the Globe

Before you can calculate or estimate the distance between your city and the equator, you must first understand what a globe is. The globe is a model of the Earth that appears covered by a grid. The lines that run around the globe from top to bottom are lines of longitude – and these are not important for your goal of quickly estimating distances to the equator. The lines that run horizontally around the globe are lines of latitude. The equator is the longest line of latitude that encircles the Earth at its widest point like a belt. Other lines of latitude also circle the Earth above and below the equator.