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ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY
ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY

Hemisphere

Hemisphere

Any circle drawn around Earth divides it into two equal halves called hemispheres. There are generally considered to be four hemispheres: northern, southern, eastern, and western.

Grades

9 - 12+

Subjects

Earth Science, Geography, Physical Geography

Any circle drawn around Earth divides it into two equal halves called hemispheres. There are generally considered to be four hemispheres: northern, southern, eastern, and western.

The Equator, or line of 0 degrees latitude, divides Earth into the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The Northern Hemisphere contains North America, the northern part of South America, Europe, the northern two-thirds of Africa, and most of Asia. The Southern Hemisphere contains most of South America, one-third of Africa, Australia, Antarctica, and some Asian islands.

There are differences in the climates of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres because of Earth's seasonal tilt toward and away from the sun. In the Northern Hemisphere, the warmer summer months are from June through September. In the Southern Hemisphere, summer begins in December and ends in March.

Earth can also be divided into hemispheres along meridians, or lines of longitude. The prime meridian, or 0 degrees longitude, and the International Date Line, 180 degrees longitude, divide Earth into Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Many geographers consider the 20 degree west line of longitude and the 160 degree east line of longitude as the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. This calculation is made so that Africa and Europe are not split.

The idea of Eastern and Western Hemispheres has become politically and historically significant since European nations began colonizing North America and South America. In this context, the Eastern Hemisphere is sometimes called the "Old World," and the Western Hemisphere is called the "New World." However, the Western Hemisphere is a purely geographic term and should not be confused with other mentions of the "Western" world, which is often used to describe parts of Europe, North America, and other world regions that share some economic, social, and cultural values.

Fast Fact

Internal Hemisphere
The word "hemisphere" is usually used to refer to halves of Earth, but it is also used to identify the halves of the brain. The brain is divided down the middle into the right and left hemispheres. Each brain hemisphere is considered to be specialized for certain behaviors. For example, the right hemisphere of the brain controls muscles on the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere of the brain controls muscles on the right side of the body.

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Writers
Hilary Costa
Erin Sprout
Santani Teng
Melissa McDaniel
Jeff Hunt
Diane Boudreau
Tara Ramroop
Kim Rutledge
Hilary Hall
Illustrators
Mary Crooks, National Geographic Society
Tim Gunther
Editors
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
Kara West
Educator Reviewer
Nancy Wynne
Producer
National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

January 27, 2023

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