Geography facts are better for more than just kicking butt at Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit… they’re actually really interesting! I had no idea so much of our world is influenced by our actually physical geography, did you? If you’re a fan of the fact, like me, then keep reading! Here are 10 interesting geography facts.
1. We Used to Be Pangea
Long before we were several different continents, we were all stuck together, one giant continent known as Pangea (“all Earth”). Look at the eastern coast of South America and see how well it fits with the shape of the west coast of Africa.
2. We’re on the Move!
Even now, our continents are “drifting,” though not very dramatically. North America is moving a tiny bit each year to the west. The inches per year don’t make much of a difference in our lifetimes, but over eons, it will be quite dramatic. So eventually, our geography facts will change quite a bit!
3. Our Political Boundaries Are Evolving
Flip through an old atlas, or even just an atlas that’s 20 years old, and you’ll see how much the political boundaries of our geography have changed. The best example is on Europe, especially Eastern Europe and Russia (the old Soviet Union).
4. The Earth is NOT round (or Flat)
Back in Medieval times, the widely accepted scientific thought was that the Earth was flat. We now know that it’s not flat, but did you know that it’s not round, either? The motion of the Earth’s rotation makes it bulge in the middle (at the equator), and flatter at the poles.
5. Heat Controls Everything
The motion of the continents, the prevailing winds, the formation of new land masses, the climate, and so much more about our geography is caused by heat, both from the sun’s rays and from cells of convection from our own molten core. This is one of my favorite unusual geography facts.
6. What Causes Seasons?
Most of us think the seasons are caused by our rotation around the sun, that when we’re the furthest away from the sun, we have winter. That’s not true, actually: when the northern hemisphere experiences winter, our orbit takes us closer to the sun than when we have summer. No, the seasons are caused by our tilt on our axis. When the northern hemisphere experiences winter, our tilt is away from the sun; in summer, we’re tilted towards the sun.
7. We’re All Tilted
What’s all this talk of tilts? Our Earth is tilted at 23.5 degrees from a plane inserted through our equator. It’s this tilt I was referring to when I was talking about the seasons.
8. The Lines
My young daughter asked me once what all the lines on a world map were. She meant the latitude and longitude lines, which I hadn’t really thought about before. But when you think about it, these lines are pretty miraculous. I especially like the story of the placements of the International Date Line and the Prime Meridian. The IDL is in the middle of the ocean to avoid the confusion of having a trans-continental date change. The Prime Meridian runs right through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, placed there as a nod to the significance of the research performed there.
9. Americans Are Really Bad at It
As much as it pains me to say this, we Americans are horrible at geography. Stop one of us on the street and ask us to identify a land mass, ocean, or landmark, and chances are you’ll be met by a blank stare and be given an embarrassingly wrong answer. Will we ever get better? Not until we care.
10. Old Textbooks Might Be Worth Something!
My geography professor is something of a bibliophile, and swears that many old geography textbooks and atlases are worth money as collectibles now. Given the ever-evolving nature of the field, I can see why!
Now that you know all of these interesting geography facts, you’ll be the next Ken Jennings… or at least in the “Geography” category! Which of these geography facts do you think is the most interesting, and why? Or is there another little tidbit you’d like to share?
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