What is Latitude ? Latitudes and Longitudes

So What is Latitude ?

Latitude refers to the linear angle formed by the line between a point and the center of the earth’s sphere and the earth’s equatorial plane, and its value is between 0 and 90 degrees

The latitude of a point located north of the equator is called north latitude, denoted as N; the latitude of a point located south of the equator is called south latitude , denoted as S.

Symbol – φ

Unit – seconds,minutes,Degrees

0 Degree – equatorial

what is latitude


Latitude (φ) is a representation of the geographic location of a point on the surface of the earth. Latitude and longitude are usually used together to determine the precise location of a point on the surface. Latitude is an angle that ranges from 0 degrees at the equator to 90 degrees at the north and south poles. Degrees.

Note: Here “LT Denotes “Latitude“.(“LT= Latitude“)

In English text, latitude is usually represented by the lowercase Greek letter phi (φ). It is measured in degrees, minutes, seconds, or decimal degrees, with N or S attached to indicate north latitude or south latitude. Same latitude The connecting line forms a great circle parallel to the equator.


The equator, the Tropic of Capricorn, the Tropic of Cancer, the Antarctic Circle and the Arctic Circle are special latitudes. Areas with “LT values ​​between 0 and 30 degrees are called low latitude areas

Latitude values ​​are between 30 and 60 referred to in the area between the degree of latitude regions; latitude value region between 60 to 90 degrees is referred to as high -latitude areas defined by the. latitude when done abstract assumed that the first two, in order to geoid.

Instead of the physical surface of the earth, the geoid is an imaginary closed surface formed by the static and balanced sea level on the earth extending into the interior of the land.

Second, a mathematically simple reference surface is used as an approximation of the geoid. the simplest is a spherical reference surface, but to simulate the rotation ellipsoid geoid be more accurate. by “LT is defined on the reference surface will be explained in detail hereinafter, the same longitude and latitude of the same common connection point constitute the graticule on this reference surface.

Latitude and Longitude

what is latitude
Latitude and Longitude

On the map and the globe , we can see thin lines, horizontal and vertical, very similar to squares on a chessboard. These are the lines of longitude and latitude. According to these latitude and longitude lines , the position and direction of any place on the ground can be accurately determined.


How are these latitude and longitude lines determined? The earth is constantly rotating around its axis (the axis is an imaginary line passing through the north and south poles of the earth and the center of the earth).

Draw a large circle perpendicular to the axis of the earth in the middle of the earth so that every point on the circle is the distance between the north and south poles Equal, this circle is called ” equator “. On the north and south sides of the equator, draw many circles parallel to the equator, called “latitude circles“; the line segments that make up these circles are called latitude lines

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It is defined as the angle between the line from a point on the earth to the center of the sphere and the equatorial plane. We define the equator as zero degrees of LT, and 90 degrees from the south to the north.

The south latitude is called south latitude and the north latitude is called north latitude if it is south of the equator. The North Pole is 90 degrees north latitude, and the South Pole is 90 degrees south latitude. The height of the latitude also marks the hot and cold climate, such as no winter at the equator and low latitudes, no summer at the poles and high latitudes, and four distinct seasons in the middle latitudes.

Warp weft
Light blue earth warp and weft


Secondly, from the North Pole to the South Pole, many large circles in the north-south direction perpendicular to the earth’s equator can be drawn, which are called “warp circles“; the line segments that make up these circles are called meridians. 

In 1884 AD, it was stipulated internationally that the longitude line passing through the Greenwich Observatory in the suburbs of London, England was used as the starting point for calculating the longitude , that is, the longitude is zero degrees, zero minutes and zero seconds, also known as the ” primary meridian .” 

The east longitude is 180 degrees to the east; the west longitude is 180 degrees to the west. Because the earth is round, the longitude of 180 degrees east longitude and 180 degrees west longitude are the same longitude. 

The 180-degree line of longitude has been established by various countries as the “ international date change line “. In order to avoid using two different dates in the same area, the international date line deviates slightly when it encounters land.


Each longitude and latitude can also be subdivided into 60 minutes, and each minute is subdivided into 60 seconds and fractions of seconds. Using the latitude and longitude lines, we can determine the specific location of each place on the earth and show it on a map or globe. 

For example,

what is the latitude and longitude of Beijing ? 

We can easily find out from the map that it is 116 degrees 24 minutes east longitude and 39 degrees 54 minutes north latitude. For ships sailing in the sea, as long as the longitude of the location is measured, the ship’s position and direction in the ocean can be determined.

There is a total of 90 degrees of LT. The equator is 0 degrees and is arranged at the poles. The smaller the circle, the greater the degree.

The World Map

what is latitude

Longitude (λ)

The lines longitude projected on map appear to be curved & vertical lines but are actually half of the great circle.

Latitude (φ)

The lines of LT are projected on the map as seemingly horizontal parallel lines, but they are actually circles of different radii.all locations with same specific LT are on same LT.

The line of LT is a circle, and the line of longitude is a semicircle. The line of LT is used to indicate the east-west direction, and the line of longitude is used to indicate the north-south direction.

The equator has a LT of 0°, dividing the planet into the southern and northern hemispheres.

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Latitude refers to the linear angle formed by the line between a point and the center of the earth’s sphere and the earth’s equatorial plane, and its value is between 0 and 90 degrees.if The LT of a point is located north of the equator is called north latitude,denoted as N & the latitude of a point located south of the equator called south latitude denoted as S.

Areas with a latitude value between 0 and 30 degrees are called low-latitude areas, areas with a latitude value in between 30 and 60 degrees are called “mid-latitude areas” & areas with LT value between the 60 and 90 degrees are called “high latitude areas“.

The equator: the Tropic of Capricorn, the Tropic of Cancer,the Arctic Circle,the Antarctic Circle are special latitudes.

LT 1 second length

The total length of the earth’s meridian is about 40008km.


Latitude 1 degree = about 111km

1 minute of latitude = about 1.85km

Latitude 1 second = about 30.9m

How can we remember the longitude and latitude in geography?

Since the earth is a sphere close to a true sphere, it is difficult to determine the position of a point on the earth’s surface. Therefore, humans use the LT and longitude lines to locate the earth’s surface. The so-called meridian refers to the arc that connects the north and south poles on the surface of the earth.

merdian circuit
The meridian circuit on the planet

All meridians are a semicircle, that is, half of the great circle of the earth, and have the same length. We define the meridian passing through the Greenwich Observatory in London, England as the 0° meridian, and divide the east and west sides into the east longitude and the west longitude until the 180° meridian.

The line of LT refers to the trajectory formed by a point on the earth’s surface following the rotation. The equator is the longest line of LT, which is defined as the 0° latitude. The north and south sides are divided into south and north latitudes, up to the north and south points.

latitude 8

It is very abstract to use the lines of longitude and LT to determine the geographical things on the surface of the earth. In order to use the lines of longitude and LT to locate, we generally use the way from large to small and special geographical things to locate. 

For example, the equator (0° LT) divides the northern and southern hemispheres. From the perspective of continents, Asia, Europe, and North America are basically located in the northern hemisphere, while Antarctica, Oceania, and South America are basically located in the southern hemisphere, and Africa spans the northern and southern hemispheres. 

On the meridian, the 20°W meridian and 160°E meridian divide the eastern and western hemispheres, so Asia, Europe, Africa, and Oceania are basically located in the eastern hemisphere, while South America and North America are located in the western hemisphere, while Antarctica has all longitudes, so the earth Across the east and west hemispheres.

merdian 6
The prime meridian

Then we use important latitudes and longitudes to locate, such as the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle in the LT, dividing the earth’s tropical, northern temperate, southern temperate, northern and southern frigid zones. 

Focus on the areas where these pass, such as the Tropic of Cancer passing through the Sahara Desert in northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, the northern Indian Peninsula, the northern Indochina Peninsula, the southern coastal areas of my country, and Mexico in North America. 

The Arctic Circle passes through northern Europe, northern Russia, Alaska in North America, and northern Canada. Then observe the longitude, Europe and Africa basically coincide in longitude, from 0° longitude to about 60°, and the two continents are bounded by about 35°N. 

From the 60°E meridian to the east to 120°E, it is the main body of Asia, and within the range of 120°E to 150°E are Australia, Japan, Northeast China and the Russian Far East.

latitude 9

Distribution map of China’s main anchor points

North and South America is located in the western hemisphere, from 40°W west to 80°W, mainly South America; and 80°W west to 120° is the main part of North America. In addition, there are some important cities that can be used as positioning points for remembering LT and longitude.

For example, the location of Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is about (30°N, 30°E), and the location of Lhasa in my country is about (30°N, 90°E).

The location of Hangzhou in my country is approximately (30°N, 120°E). Of course, in the modern era when mobile phones and other tools are developed, the memory of LT and longitude is mainly a kind of thinking training, and in practice we can completely open the electronic map in the mobile phone.

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