Which Hemisphere Are You In?

North, South, East, and West

A child's hand runs along the equatorial seam of an illuminated globe

Rolfo Brenner / EyeEm / Getty Images 

The earth is divided into four overlapping hemispheres that each represent one half of the earth from a different orientation. Any given location in the world is in two hemispheres at once: Northern or Southern and Eastern or Western. The United States, for example, is in both the Northern and Western hemispheres and Australia is in the Southern and Eastern hemispheres. Which hemispheres are you in?

Are You in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere?

Determining whether you are in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere is easy—simply ask yourself if the equator is north or south of your position. This tells you your longitudinal hemisphere because the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere are divided by the equator.

All locations on Earth that are north of the equator are in​ the Northern Hemisphere. This includes all of North America and Europe along with most of Asia, northern South America, and northern Africa. All points on Earth that are south of the equator are in the Southern Hemisphere. This includes Australia, Antarctica, most of South America, and southern Africa.

Climate

Climate is the biggest difference between the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Along and close to the equator (zero degrees latitude), the climate is very tropical and relatively unchanging throughout the year.

As you move away from the equator—either north or south—distinct seasons are experienced that become more extreme as you travel beyond 40 degrees of latitude. This is most notable in the heavily populated Northern Hemisphere as the 40th parallel bisects the United States and runs across Europe and Asia along the Mediterranean Sea.

Seasons

The Northern and Southern Hemispheres have opposite seasons. In December, people in the Northern Hemisphere are beginning winter and those living in the Southern Hemisphere are enjoying summer—vice versa in June.

Meteorological seasons are caused by the Earth's tilt toward or away from the sun. During the month of December, the Southern Hemisphere is angled toward the sun and thus experiences warmer temperatures. At the same time, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the sun and, receiving fewer warming rays, endures much cooler temperatures.

Are You in the Eastern or Western Hemisphere?

The earth is also divided into an Eastern and Western hemisphere. Determining which of these you are in is more difficult because the divisions are not as obvious as they are for the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Ask yourself which continent you're on and go from there.

The typical division of the Eastern and Western hemispheres is along the prime meridian or zero degrees longitude (through the United Kingdom) and 180 degrees longitude (through the Pacific Ocean, near the International Date Line). This set of boundaries places Asia, Australia, New Zealand, half of Antarctica, and most of Europe and Africa in the Eastern Hemisphere. The Western Hemisphere includes the Americas, Greenland, the other half of Antarctica, and the outer edges of Europe and Africa.

Some would rather consider the Eastern and Western hemispheres to be divided at 20 degrees West (through Iceland) and 160 degrees East (again in the middle of the Pacific Ocean). This boundary creates a slightly neater distinction of continents by keeping western Europe and Africa in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Unlike the Northern and Southern hemispheres, the Eastern and Western hemispheres have no real impact on climate. Instead, the big difference between east and west is the time of day. As the Earth rotates in a single 24-hour period, only part of the world is exposed to the Sun's light. This makes it possible for it to be high noon at -100 degrees longitude in North America and midnight at 100 degrees longitude in China.