Back to the Lines

On July 17, 2011 · 10 Comments

My fascination with lines returns as a recurring theme once again on the Twelve Mile Circle, like previous articles such as Wisconsin vs. Florida, Reno vs. Los Angeles, and Glasgow vs. Madrid. I found myself thinking about lines of latitude and longitude this morning when I noticed a random search engine query that pondered whether Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine was further north. No doubt, the unknown visitor was drawn here by Marc Alifanz’s wonderful guest article on Geo-Oddities of Portland, Oregon.

I already knew the answer and I’m sure many of you did too. It’s one of those fairly common geo-trivia question one see on the Intertubes.



View More Lines in a larger map

While somewhat counterintuitive, the Portland that’s located in Oregon is farther north than the one found in Maine. The mind is fooled because Maine comprises the northern extremities of New England while Oregon doesn’t even extend to the Canadian boarder. However I’d never actually drawn this alignment on a map before. It’s a bit surprising to see exactly how far north the Oregon instance extends versus the one in Maine. It’s considerable.

That got me thinking about other possibilities.


London, Ontario or London, England?



View More Lines in a larger map

The same concept works here as well. Canada is thought of as a nation extending well beyond the Arctic Circle while England isn’t even the most northerly part of Great Britain. How could England be farther north than Canada, wonders the subconscious mind? Yet, the London found in Ontario is well south of its more famous namesake. It’s not even a contest.

London, Ontario is located in the part of Canada that dips considerably south, an area sometimes known as Carolinian Canada with flora and fauna more akin to the Carolinas of the United States. It’s surprising, actually, to compare the southern extent of London, Ontario to a map of Europe. Even a narrow strip of Spain reaches a more northern latitude.


Charleston, South Carolina or Charleston, West Virginia?



View More Lines in a larger map

Would similar situations exist in other like-named locations? Generally not, but they sometimes present other pleasant surprises. I compared Charleston, South Carolina to Charleston, West Virginia. The West Virginia city is indeed further west, as the name implies and as one would expect. However, go ahead and draw a line of longitude from the South Carolina counterpart. Notice that many decidedly non-coastal cities, even Appalachian Mountain cities share the same approximate longitude: Greensboro, NC; Roanoke, VA; Morgantown, WV, and Pittsburgh, PA. Pittsburgh? I never would have guessed that one, in particular.


Kansas City, Kansas or Kansas City, Missouri?



View More Lines in a larger map

Kansas is thought of as west of Missouri. Per our intuition, Kansas City on the Kansas side of the border is generally west of the one in Missouri. However, one area on the Kansas side is a little further east than some of Missouri side due to a boundary that follows the Missouri River. It looks to be a rather industrial area filled with petroleum storage tanks. Given that, it’s likely that few residents can brag about living in this geo-anomaly. Nonetheless it exists.

Next I got greedy and overconfident, and I focused my attention on Texarkana. After my brief examination, I think I can say with fair certainty that the border follows a very straight path. I didn’t find any surprising geographic twists anywhere between Texas and Arkansas within the town limits. It was time to stop for the day.

On July 17, 2011 · 10 Comments

10 Responses to “Back to the Lines”

  1. KCJeff says:

    The latitude line on the Kansas City map could actually be moved several miles west. Kansas City MO has city limits that extend much farther north and west than the Stateline Rd marker you used. A much larger section of KC,KS lies farther east than the most western point of KC,MO; not just the Fairfax industrial area.

  2. Peter says:

    That east-of-Missouri part of Kansas City was once the site of an airport known as Fairfax Airpark. You can still see traces of the runways on the Google satellite view. It was one of the biggest aircraft production sites during World War II.

    The big structure in the middle of the area is a General Motors assembly plant, which produces the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse.

  3. Marc says:

    Thanks for the shout out!

    The two Londons got me thinking again about how fascinating it is that Europe is DRAMATICALLY further north than the mid-Atlantic states, but has a similarly temperate climate. The reason Europe can be at the same latitude as Canada but be so much warmer is due to ocean currents across the Atlantic; specifically the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift. This wikipedia article explains it nicely: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_Stream

  4. Pfly says:

    Reminds me of a geo-quiz I read years ago had two questions I still remember: Which is farther north, Toronto or Venice? Which is farther west, Reno or Los Angeles?

  5. Bill Harris says:

    Which is further east- Lima, Peru or Lima, Ohio?

  6. James D says:

    Then Alexandria, LA, and Alexandria, Egypt, seem to be doing their best to engineer a dead heat. They’re only about 5 miles off being at identical longitudes. I am wondering whether this one was deliberate.

    • Wikipedia says, "Alexander Fulton, a businessman from Washington County, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, received a land grant from Spain in 1785, and the first organized settlement was made at some point in the 1790s. In 1805, Fulton and business partner Thomas Harris Maddox laid out the town plan and named the town in Fulton’s honor… Alexandria was incorporated as a town in 1819 and received a city charter in 1832."

      But I think your larger point is whether Mr. Fulton made the mental connection with the latitude and either thought that was pretty cool or parlayed that into convincing Mr. Maddox that they should name the town Alexandria instead of something like Thomasville.

      My geo-geek heart would be aflutter if anyone could find evidence that it was deliberate.

  7. Fritz Keppler says:

    One time I was visiting with relatives in Germany, and was telling them how far south New Orleans was. They would not believe that the city was at the same latitude as Cairo, Egypt, so we had to get out a globe. They were astonished.

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