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Northern Hemisphere: Map


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Northern hemisphere highlighted in yellow.
Northern hemisphere from above the North Pole.

The Northern Hemisphere is the half of a planet that is north of the equator—the word hemisphere literally means 'half sphere'. It is also that half of the celestial sphere north of the celestial equator. Earth's northern hemisphere contains most of its land area and most of its human population (about 90%).

Geography and climate

See also Arctic, Temperate zone, Tropics, Seasons and Climate

Due to the Earth's axial tilt, winter lasts from the winter solstice (typically December 22) to the vernal equinox (typically March 20) while summer lasts from the summer solstice (typically June 21) through to the autumnal equinox (typically September 21).

The Arctic is the region north of the Arctic Circle. Its climate is characterized by cold winters and cool summers. Precipitation mostly comes in the form of snow. The Arctic experiences some days in summer on which the sun never sets, and some days in winter on which the sun never rises. The duration of these phases varies from one day for places right on the Arctic Circle to several months near the North Polemarker itself.

Between the Arctic Circle and the Tropic of Cancermarker lies the Northern Temperate Zone. The changes in these regions between summer and winter are generally mild, rather than extreme hot or cold. However, a temperate climate can have very unpredictable weather.

Tropical regions (between the Tropic of Cancer and the equator) are generally hot all year round and tend to experience a rainy season during the 'summer' months, and a dry season during the 'winter' months.

In the northern hemisphere, objects moving across or above the surface of the Earth tend to turn to the right because of the Coriolis effect. As a result, large-scale horizontal flows of air or water tend to form clockwise-turning gyre north of the equator. These are best seen in ocean circulation patterns in the North Atlanticmarker and North Pacificmarker Oceans. South of the equatormarker, the directions are reversed.

For the same reason, flows of air down toward the northern surface of the Earth tend to spread across the surface in a clockwise pattern. Thus, clockwise air circulation is characteristic of high pressure weather cells in the northern hemisphere. Conversely, air rising from the northern surface of the Earth (creating a region of low pressure) tends to draw air toward it in a counterclockwise pattern. Hurricane and tropical storm (massive low-pressure systems) spin anti-clockwise in the northern hemisphere (by contrast, they spin clockwise in the southern hemisphere).

The shadow of a sun dial moves clockwise in the northern hemisphere (opposite of the southern hemisphere). During the day the sun tends to raise to its maximum at a southerly position, whereas in the southern hemisphere it raises to a maximum that is northerly in position (as it tends towards the direction of the equator). In both hemispheres the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

Also the Moon appears "upside down" compared to a view from the southern hemisphere and the view of the stars is much different. The North Pole faces away from the galactic centre of the Milky Way, this results in there being far fewer and less bright visible stars in the northern hemisphere compared to the southern hemispheremarker, making the northern hemisphere more suitable for deep-space observation as it is not 'blinded' by the Milky Way.

List of continents and countries


See also


  1. Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary (based on Collegiate vol., 11th ed.) 2006. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

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