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Where can I find simple maps comparing latitude around the world?
March 7, 2011 9:13 AM   Subscribe

I want to see a map of North America with all major western European cities overlaid at the correct latitude. Vice versa for American cities overlaid a map of Western Europe. Is there anything like this out there already or easily assembled?

Mostly, I wonder if when I hear about harsh winters in Helsinki, if that's like a town in Alaska, latitude-wise. And when people talk about the South of France or Portugal being lovely and warm, I wonder if Los Angeles is that far south.

It seems like a simple thing to just overlay border lines from one map with cities-only from another and vice versa, but I'm having trouble finding clean, simple maps for both North America and Western Europe at the same scale and latitude coverage.
posted by mathowie to Science & Nature (38 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
(just to let everyone know I've been searching google and wikipedia all day, but I can't seem to find consistent projections)
posted by mathowie at 9:25 AM on March 7, 2011


It just sounds you're looking for a Mercator world map... the basic, standard rectangular map that has horizontal latitude lines. Can you explain what special features you want this map to have that you haven't been able to find?
posted by brainmouse at 9:30 AM on March 7, 2011


man, that does sound like a good idea. I've read descriptions of certain cities that compare equivalent locations - for example I think Adam Gopnik was saying that NYC had a Mediterranean climate - but never seen a map that has them overlaid directly.

I have a friend who does map-related things for a living, I've emailed him to ask if he knows of anything like this.
posted by dubold at 9:35 AM on March 7, 2011


This list of cities by latitude has the information that you are seeking -
but maybe not in the format you want.
posted by Flood at 9:36 AM on March 7, 2011


latitude alone is not a meaningful way to think about climate, and NYC decidedly does not have a med climate. The East Coast of the US is closer to NE Asia. I always figured DC and Tokyo were pretty close climate wise. Tokyo a bit warmer.
posted by JPD at 9:38 AM on March 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


OK, this requires a hardware hack. You'll need to equip yourself with a map. A paper one, or a little one with all the capitols marked online, in mercator projection. Use your finger to trace the nearest latitude line - left if you're starting in Europe, Right if you're starting in the US.

Be amazed as the southernmost point in Europe, Spain, is level with North Carolina, and the northern tip of Scandanavia is level with the north coast of Alaska. All of England is north of Newfoundland!
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:47 AM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Google Maps uses Mercator. So just find the city you're interested in and use the left and right arrow keys (or home/end for faster movement) to see what else is at the same latitude.
posted by zsazsa at 9:48 AM on March 7, 2011


IfItWereMyHome.com sort-of does this, but its outlines are really poor quality.
posted by scruss at 9:49 AM on March 7, 2011


Here's a pretty good Mercator world map showing climate regions according to Wladimir Koppen's coding (as updated by Rudolf GeigerĀ in 1961), which makes it very easy to see similarities and differences across lines of latitude.
posted by nicwolff at 9:58 AM on March 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, I was thinking of latitude + distance from the ocean would be a good approximation.

So I'm a west coast of the US guy, I would put Paris/London on the extreme west coast, about as far from the Pacific Ocean that they are relative to the Atlantic. I'm guessing Paris is in like Oregon, and London is somewhere around the US/Canada Border.

I think all I need for this is a basic outline of the US with major cities as dots, and a basic outline of Western Europe with cities as dots, but both maps at the same scale and same latitude scale, so I could just cut the city dots out of one and plop it into the other.
posted by mathowie at 10:00 AM on March 7, 2011


nicwolff's link is actually a Robinson projection, not a Mercator, but those also have horizontal latitude lines, so it's just as good for these purposes (and in many ways better, but that's a different discussion...)
posted by brainmouse at 10:00 AM on March 7, 2011


Well, I was thinking of latitude + distance from the ocean would be a good approximation.

Its not that simple - because the West coast of Europe has a warm current running next to it, while the west coast of the US has a cold current the climate at similar latitudes end up being very different.
posted by JPD at 10:08 AM on March 7, 2011


You can see an example of what JPD said here. I always thought those latitude comparisons were neat precisely because they showed that latitude alone doesn't explain climate very well.
posted by partylarry at 10:15 AM on March 7, 2011


Its funny I was idly thinking about this topic over the weekend because of some speculation about the potential for any new areas to be great wine producers - IMO you want warm dry-ish summers at as high a latitude as possible, with moderate winters to get all the proportions of ripeness correct. I think the Koppen map short of shows we've already found most of them
posted by JPD at 10:23 AM on March 7, 2011


"latitude alone is not a meaningful way to think about climate"

No, but it's a very useful way of thinking about how geography DOES affect climate. When people find out that Chicago and Rome are on about the same latitude, the response is usually, "HOLY CRAP, what is up with the weather difference?"

So glad you asked ....
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:31 AM on March 7, 2011


Google Earth?
posted by Felex at 10:38 AM on March 7, 2011


Latitude doesn't tell you much.

NYC and Rome are on the same latitude (roughly) and do not have the same climate or weather. Washington, DC and Morocco are on the same latitude and the same applies.

Nor is the proximity to the ocean (see Washington, DC and Morroco) a good proxy for determining weather.

Weather is a function of both latitude, altitude, and ocean and air currents.
posted by dfriedman at 10:51 AM on March 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a striking picture of why latitude and proximity to the ocean are not a good approximation (from the recent snowpocalypse).
posted by zanni at 11:06 AM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mapfrappe will show you latitude and longitude, with one map above the other, but not overlaid.
posted by mgar at 11:12 AM on March 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


Thanks mgar, that's a great tool to get at what I was wondering about. I can't believe how far off I was in my guesses (London is at the same latitude as Edmonton? Holy crap).
posted by mathowie at 11:17 AM on March 7, 2011


This is kid of half-overlaid.
posted by janerica at 11:17 AM on March 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, I was thinking of latitude + distance from the ocean would be a good approximation.

I'm going to add to the chorus that this is a bad assumption. Scotland is a heckuva lot warmer than coastal Maine in the wintertime, and it several hundred miles north (hell..the UK's southernmost tip is further north than 95% of the Canadian population)
posted by schmod at 11:18 AM on March 7, 2011


Piggybacking onto schmod — yep, as I happily like to point out, my current home of Nice, France (capital of the French Riviera) is on the same latitude as my hometown of Springfield, Oregon. As a native Springfielder, I can tell you that the weather is not the same. The Jet Stream and Gulf Stream make a huge difference, even within countries — my boyfriend is from Stavanger, which is about the same latitude as Helsinki (and southern Alaska), but Stavanger is several degrees warmer on average than most other Norwegian cities, and than Helsinki. Why? Gulf Stream.
posted by fraula at 11:34 AM on March 7, 2011


I built a little tool that does this and posted it to Projects a while back. Needs a bit of a tidy up, but should be of use.
posted by jontyjago at 11:40 AM on March 7, 2011


I hadn't really thought about this, but the shortest winter day and longest summer day in London must be somewhat longer and shorter than even here in Seattle.

And if climate change kills the gulf stream, Europe is in a world of hurt.
posted by maxwelton at 12:03 PM on March 7, 2011


I'm a GIS guru so I have some nifty mapping tools at my disposal. I whipped together a simple map overlaying European cities onto North American cities. You can find it here. Also, like others have mentioned, there are many variables influencing climate other than latitude.
posted by Beardsley Klamm at 12:03 PM on March 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Beardsley, that's awesome! Is there any way you can put an outline of North America with simple country shapes over the EU only cities, and then a EU outline map over those US cities?

If not, I think I could just approximate it in photoshop with some open source outline maps I have around.
posted by mathowie at 1:14 PM on March 7, 2011


Beardsley, that's awesome! Is there any way you can put an outline of North America with simple country shapes over the EU only cities, and then a EU outline map over those US cities?

Sure thing. Check back in a couple of hours. I'm going to lunch.
posted by Beardsley Klamm at 1:34 PM on March 7, 2011


Not cities, but continents: http://www.radicalcartography.net/index.html?us-europe
posted by mdonley at 1:44 PM on March 7, 2011


One of the other things Beardsley's map shows is that as you get further from the Ocean the more similar the climates get.

For example:
Minsk and Winnipeg are pretty similar
posted by JPD at 1:58 PM on March 7, 2011


And by Minsk I meant Kiev
posted by JPD at 2:00 PM on March 7, 2011


Great question. I was watching "I am Love" this weekend and we were trying to figure out where it was set. There was a lot of snow and we got into a debate about whether Portugal and Spain have much snow. I used latitude to argue that of course they had snow. (and yes, I know it's more complicated than that, winds, elevation, etc) This is great though! Really useful for perspective.
posted by fyrebelley at 2:26 PM on March 7, 2011


OK, I'm back. Here is an overlay of European cities onto the North American continent and here is an overlay of North American cities onto the Eurasian and African continents. I hope Sherriff Arpaio has a plan for all the refugees.
posted by Beardsley Klamm at 3:22 PM on March 7, 2011 [23 favorites]


You rule Beardsley Klamm! I owe you a beer (or three).
posted by mathowie at 4:27 PM on March 7, 2011


Fantastic work Beardsley. :)

I've often wondered a similar thing for the latitude of Australian cities to other cities in the northern hemisphere. I did a quick google of the latitudes and switched the hemispheres. Turns out that Melbourne & San Francisco are almost identical latitudes. Sydney & Los Angeles too. Brisbane & Tampa, Cairns & Acapulco.
posted by snarkle at 5:07 PM on March 7, 2011


Actually, talking about a Mediterranean climate, it's quite rare. This article explains why, but it only occurs on the left-side of continents in the temperate zone with a large body of water and a desert nearby. So looking at Rome and wondering why New York doesn't have the same weather is kind of backwards. The question seems to be why isn't Rome's weather like New York's?
posted by ob at 7:25 PM on March 7, 2011


Wow, Beardsly. That's awesome.
posted by malaprohibita at 12:04 PM on March 8, 2011


Weather is a function of both latitude, altitude, and ocean and air currents.

The direction of prevailing weather has a major impact. For example at temperate latitudes, the weather systems tend to move west -> east. As a result, the eastern cost of temperate North America has a much more continental climate than comparable coastal latitudes in Europe, which have a more maritime [i.e. milder] climate. You can see the same pattern in the Pacific, where the eastern coast of Asia has a much more continental climate than the western coast of North America.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:33 PM on March 8, 2011


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