Finding Germany on a Map

Germany has been much in the headlines recently as destination for refugees from conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. Looking at a world map, we wonder: Which two major North American cities are located along the same latitude north of the earth’s equator as Germany?

A. Miami, Florida
B. Washington, D.C.
C. Seattle, Washington
D. Edmonton, Alberta

A. Miami, Florida, is not correct.

Miami, Florida, the southernmost major city on the U.S. mainland, lies at latitude 25°46′ N. This is roughly 2,390 kilometers (1,485 miles) further south than the latitude of Germany’s southernmost point (47°16′ N).

Important cities around the world that are located along or near the 25th parallel include Doha, Qatar; Karachi, Pakistan, and Taipei, Taiwan. These cities have a decidedly subtropical climate, with average summertime high temperatures of 32° C (90° F) or higher. This latitude also bisects the Sahara Desert in Africa.

Germany’s southernmost extreme — Haldenwanger Eck, an uninhabited pass in the Alps along the German-Austrian border — is located at 47°16′ N.

Because they are equidistance from each other, lines of latitude are frequently referred to as parallels. Each degree of latitude is about 111 kilometers (69 miles) apart.

B. Washington, D.C., is not correct.

At latitude 38°54′ N, the U.S. capital of Washington, D.C., lies just outside of the subtropic latitudes, which extend north of the Tropic of Cancer to latitude 38° N.

Because of the city’s notoriously hot and humid summers, members of the British diplomatic corps — in the time before air-conditioning was common — were allowed to wear Bermuda shorts as their official dress.

Following the unification of West and East Germany in 1990, Berlin once again became the capital city of the German nation. At latitude 52°05′ N, Berlin is the 12th most-northern capital city in the world. It is located 1,470 km (910 miles) further north than Washington, D.C.

The more northerly North American capital, Ottawa, Canada, also lies at lower latitudes than Berlin. At latitude 45°25′ N, Canada’s capital city is not even among the 20 northernmost world capitals. Reykjavik, Iceland, tops that list, at latitude 64°08′ N.

With a population of 3.5 million, Berlin is the third-largest city north of the 50th parallel. It is topped only by London (8.4 million) and Moscow (12.1 million). Moscow — at latitude 55°45′ N, or 410 km (255 miles) further north than Berlin — is by far the largest “northern” city. Meanwhile, London — 1,500 km (930 miles) to the west of Berlin — actually lies 65 km (40 miles) further south of Berlin.

C. Seattle, Washington, is correct.

At latitude 47°37′ N, Seattle, Washington — the northernmost major city in the continental United States — lies within a degree of latitude of Germany’s southernmost major city, Munich.

Munich is the largest city in Germany’s south and third-largest city overall (after Berlin and Hamburg). It is best known globally as the home of FC Bayern München, one of the world’s most popular professional soccer teams, and for the annual celebration of Oktoberfest.

At latitude 48°08′ N, Munich is situated less than 60 km (35 miles) more northerly than Seattle. Munich and Seattle lie just below the 49th Parallel, which marks a 3,500 km (2,175 mile) stretch of the border between Canada and the United States.

D. Edmonton, Alberta, is correct.

With a population of 812,000, Edmonton, Alberta, is the northernmost major city in Canada. Situated at latitude 53°32′ N, Edmonton is — as a geographer might say — just two minutes south of Hamburg, Germany’s northernmost major city, at 53°34 N. With 1.7 million people, Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany.

Edmonton and Hamburg are separated by a linear distance of 7,020 km (4,360 miles), or about a third of the distance around the earth along the 53rd parallel. Along the way, you would pass directly over Northern England, Ireland, the North Atlantic Ocean, Newfoundland and the southern reaches of Hudson Bay.

All of Germany and nearly all of Europe lie within the Northern Temperate Zone, the part of the globe that sits between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle and features mostly relatively moderate climate.

This zone also encompasses most of China, Canada, Russia, the United States as well as parts of India, Africa and the Middle East. The Northern Temperate Zone is home the vast majority of the world’s population.

Germany — along with the rest of Northern Europe — enjoys a milder climate than might be expected at such northerly latitudes. This is because the Gulf Stream pushes warm seawater from the tip of Florida up and across the Atlantic Ocean. Prevailing winds blow west to east across this comparatively warm current and provide Europe with warmer winters.

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