Geography class isn’t usually something that is remembered fondly by students. After all, who enjoys memorizing all the capitals to over a hundred countries? However, these geography facts might just surprise you with how interesting they can actually get.
- Geography is the study of the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of the Earth.
- There are 195 recognized countries in the world.
- The Earth is divided into 4 hemispheres.
- 90% of the Earth’s population lives in the Northern hemisphere.
- There are over 24 different time zones on Earth.
- Eratosthenes first used the word “geography.” (276–194 BC)
- Geography comes from the greek geo (Earth) and graphy (description).
- Geography is often defined in terms of two branches: human geography and physical geography.
- Human geography studies the patterns and processes that influence society according to location.
- Physical geography is the study of the earth’s climate, seasons, and other natural phenomena.
- The geographic coordinate system marks locations on a map according to certain numbers and degrees.
- Geographers study the physical and social environments on Earth.
- An archipelago refers to a group of islands.
- Regions are the basic units of geography. It can denote land, dialect, or other socio-cultural characteristics.
- The Earth is divided into imaginary lines such as longitude, latitude, the equator, and the tropics.
Mastering geography as a subject takes 6 years.
Geography is a broad field of study. Aside from learning about places, you have to study sociology, climate, and weather, as well as other sciences. A bachelor’s degree in geography takes 3 to 4 years depending on the country, with the additional 2 years of a master’s degree. However, it takes years of exposure and immersion to truly master geography and its many branches.
Political geography deals with territories and political boundaries.
Geography doesn’t just mean cultural and spatial differences – politics is also involved. For example, the case of South Korea and North Korea is a well-known geographic divide. Territorial disputes are also under political geography. The dispute between the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea is a well-documented case. Political geography studies the boundaries, divisions, and possessions of countries, as well as how politics affect the geography of certain territories.
Cultural geography studies the identity of people in certain territories.
A country would be nothing without its people. Cultural politics studies the cultural identity of people in a certain locale. Cultural geography studies place according to gender politics, music, and other preferences. It also examines how colonialism, imperialism, and hegemony impact a certain population.
Papua New Guinea has the most spoken languages in the world.
At 840 different dialects, Papua New Guinea holds the title for the country with the most spoken languages in the world.
The Vatican is the smallest country in mass and population.
Based on land mass, Vatican City is the smallest country in the world, only spanning 0.2 square miles. The Vatican is almost 120 times smaller than Manhattan. Definitely one of the geography facts that will have you thinking.
There is enough gold in the Earth to cover its entirety.
There is enough gold in the Earth’s core to cover the whole Earth with a 1.5-foot layer of it. However, since gold is a reactive mineral, these precious metal deposits are buried deep in the Earth’s core.
The Marianas Trench has been proposed as a nuclear waste dumpsite.
Oceanic trenches have long been proposed as nuclear waste disposal sites, since tectonic plate movements could theoretically push the nuclear waste into the Earth’s mantle. However, international law prohibits the dumping of nuclear waste in any ocean. Tectonic plates also tend to cause megathrust earthquakes, which could be hazardous in the long run if nuclear waste was involved.
Russia is the biggest country in the world.
Russia has a total area of 17,098,242 km² (6,601,665 mi²) and a land area of 16,376,870 km² (6,323,142 mi²).
Eratosthenes invented geography in the 3rd century BC.
Eratosthenes was not the first scholar to write about the Earth. However, he was the first to correctly theorize and speculate most of the fundamentals we apply now. He published his book Geography in two volumes. The first volume compiled existing knowledge about geography, along with his theories on the validity of the claims. The second volume explained his formula for calculating the circumference of the Earth.
The tropics determine a place’s climate.
Have you ever wondered why some places experience snow, while some places don’t? That question is answered by the tropic of Cancer and Capricorn. The tropics are circles of latitude that mark different climate regions on Earth. Tropical countries lie between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, which is why it doesn’t experience snow. Now that’s one of the geography facts to remember.
The Tropic of Capricorn is the southernmost latitude where the sun can be overhead.
Less than 3% of the world’s population lives south of the Tropic of Capricorn. However, about 40% of the population lives between the two Tropics in tropical countries.
The Tropic of Cancer is the northernmost latitude passed by the sun.
Countries within the Tropic of Cancer experience dry, warm weather – excluding the highlands of China and coastal areas that are prone to rainfall. Places within this tropic have 2 seasons: dry summers reaching 45°C and warm winters with lows of 25°C.
The Association of American Geographers (AAG) established the 5 themes of geography.
The AAG created a guideline for teaching geography, separating its concepts into 5 main themes: location, place, human-environment interaction, movement, and region. Definitely one of the essential geography facts.
There are two main types of location.
When you think geography, location is probably one of the first things that come to mind. The 5 themes of geography classify location into two kinds.
Absolute location is an exact location such as an address or coordinates. On the other hand, relative location describes a location relative to its surroundings. For example, if you ask your friend where they might be and they say they’re a block away from the mall, that is their relative location. Meanwhile, if they give you an exact address, that is their absolute location.
Place refers to the physical characteristics of a location.
You might confuse location with the place, since both words are used in the same context. However, the 5 themes of geography draw a simple distinction: a place refers to a location according to its characteristics. Physical characteristics define a place through its surroundings, such as mountains, rivers, beaches, climate, and biodiversity. For example, if an expert describes a place as hot, sandy, and deserted, they are describing a place through physical characteristics.
Meanwhile, human characteristics refer to landmarks, livelihood, political systems, folklore, and the like. Simply put, it describes the cultural identity of a place. For example, China can be described as a communist, predominantly Buddhist place.
Movement refers to the distance traveled by humans in all categories.
Whether it’s physical, technological, or social advancements, the 5 themes of geography define these shifts as movement. Migration, channels of water in the oceans, and the expansion of phone reception through the world are all movements.
Regions divide places or locations according to common characteristics.
Regions are groups of places with the same characteristics. These regions can vary in scale, from the regions of a city to the regions of the world. The 5 themes of geography classify regions into three types. Formal regions are official boundaries denoted by law, such as cities, states, and countries.
Functional regions are defined through their role to surrounding regions. For example, CNBC dubbed Virginia as the best state for business in 2019. Thus, in 2019, Virginia was a functional business region.
Vernacular regions, on the other hand, group places according to informal definitions. For example, we call a Texan accent “Southern” because Texas is recognized in America as the South.
The prime meridian dictates the time zones of countries.
Sir George Airy established the Royal Observatory of Greenwich as the prime meridian in 1851. The prime meridian is the longitude in the middle of the Earth. Places to the west of Greenwich are an hour earlier than the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) every 15 degrees, while each time zone towards the east is an hour later every 15 degrees.
Maps can tell actual distance according to the map scale.
The scale on a map describes a ratio of the actual distance. For example, a 1:1000000 cm scale map shows 1 centimeter is equal to 1 kilometer in actual ground distance.
The U.S. has the most states in the world.
U.S. geography is unique since it has the most states out of any country in the world, with 50 different states.
Asia is the world’s biggest continent.
Asia takes up 30% of the Earth’s landmass, making it the largest continent in the world. Not only is it the biggest, but it is also the most populated continent with 4,627,028,167 inhabitants as of 2020.
Australia is the smallest continent.
Aside from being the smallest continent, Australia is also the flattest, the lowest and the driest of them all. However, it is the sixth-largest country in the world by total area, and the largest country in Oceania.
Mount Everest is not the tallest mountain in the world.
People widely believe Mount Everest to be the highest peak in the world. However, it is only the tallest mountain above sea level.
Mauna Kea in Hawaii actually stands 3,000 feet taller than Mount Everest, if you count its submerged base. Standing at 32,808 feet, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world. Definitely one of the geography facts you didn’t expect.
Chimborazo is the closest peak to outer space.
At only 20,564 feet in height, Mount Chimborazo is definitely not taller than Everest. However, its location at the equator pushes it closer to space than Mount Everest, at 29,035 feet.
Iceland grows 5 cm per year.
One of the coolest geography facts: Iceland expands 5 centimeters per year as the North American and European plates grow wider apart.
The Pacific Ocean shrinks each year.
As the Americas drift to the west, the Pacific Ocean shrinks 2-3 cm. Meanwhile, Asia and North America get closer each year.
Mexico City stands on a lake.
The Aztecs filled in Lago de Texcoco to create an island, which the Spanish conquistadors turned into Mexico City in 1521. Since most locals rely on the aquifer below the city for water, the city sinks 3.2 feet per year. Over the last 60 years, it has dropped a total of 32 feet.
The Malay Archipelago is the largest in the world.
The Malay Archipelago consists of over 17,000 islands of Indonesia and the 7,000+ islands of the Philippines. This makes the Malay Archipelago the biggest one in the world. We bet you didn’t learn these geography facts in school.
Sargasso Sea is the only one without coasts.
The Sargasso Sea is the only sea in the world without any surrounding land. Found in the Northern Atlantic Ocean, it is surrounded by four ocean currents, but no land in sight. The name Sargassum borrows from the Sargassum seaweed native to this sea.
Mount Augustus is not a mountain at all.
Instead, Mount Augustus is a giant rock. It stands over 2,300 ft tall in the Australian Outback and can be seen from nearly 100 miles away.
Africa occupies all 4 hemispheres.
Africa is the only continent in the world that occupies all four hemispheres in the north, south, east and west. It spans nearly 12 million square miles and takes up 6% of the Earth’s total surface.
Kentucky has the most caves in the world.
Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave spans nearly 400 miles in length — and has not been fully explored. Scientists believe 200 more miles can still be discovered, which makes the cave system the largest in the world.
Istanbul is the only major city located on two continents.
Istanbul sits between Europe and Asia, with the Bosphorus Strait right in the middle. How’s that for cool geography facts?
Canada has the most lakes in the world.
Not only is Canada the 2nd largest country in the world, but it also holds over half of all the natural lakes in the world. 9% of Canada is covered in freshwater.
Russia’s Transsiberian railway crosses 11 time zones.
You can take a train across the entirety of Russia on a 7-day trip. The railway passes Russia’s 16 largest rivers, including the Volga, and 62 miles of bridgework. Time-travel is possible with these geography facts.
It has snowed 3 times in the Sahara Desert.
The Sahara Desert may reach scorching highs of 58°C, but it also reaches chilly lows of 12°C. As of January 2018, it snowed in the Sahara for the third time in 40 years. Prior to this, snowfall was recorded in 2016 and 1979.
Historians believe that the 7 continents came from one supercontinent.
Although there are many theories about the origin of the world, experts widely believe that Pangaea was the first continent. According to this theory, Pangaea existed in the late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic eras. About 175 million years ago, the shift in tectonic plates caused the supercontinent to break apart. In line with the Continental Drift Theory, it was the fragmented remains of Pangaea that eventually formed the 7 continents.
Antarctica holds almost all the freshwater in the world.
The 14 million square kilometer ice sheet in Antarctica is the biggest mass of ice on the planet and contains 90% of the world’s freshwater.
Two islands between the U.S. and Russia are only 2.4 miles away from each other but have a 20-hour time zone difference.
The Diomede Islands between the U.S. and Russia are just 2.4 miles apart. However, a staggering 20-hour time difference separates the two islands. Because of this, Big Diomede was branded Tomorrow Island while Little Diomede was called Yesterday Island. Bet you didn’t expect that for geography facts?
You could walk from Russia to the U.S. and back.
When the 2.5 mile stretch between the Big Diomede and Little Diomede freezes in the winter, you can trek from U.S. territory into Russian territory.
You can drive to Canada from the U.S.
Driving south from some areas of Detroit, you could cross into Canadian territory.
The North Pole constantly moves.
It may not seem like it when you look at a map, but the North Pole is not made of land. Instead, polar ice caps comprise the North Pole. As such, it is always drifting and moving.
Point Nemo is the least accessible place on Earth.
Point Nemo stands isolated 1,000 miles from any land in any direction.
The Amazon Rainforest supplies 20% of the world’s oxygen.
The Amazon Rainforest spans 5.5 million km². You don’t need geography facts to know how important this forest is to the world’s ecosystem.
Continents move 1” per year.
However, tectonic plates are under stress can move 20 times more quickly. Definitely one of the more alarming geography facts.
There is one town in the U.S. with a population of one.
The only incorporated town in the U.S. is Monowi, Nebraska. Elsie Eiler is the only citizen in Monowi.
Australia’s longest road is dedicated to fallen soldiers.
By its completion in 1932, the Great Ocean Road stretched 150 miles. The road was dedicated to soldiers lost in war, making it the world’s largest war memorial.
Volcanoes on Hawaii experience snow.
All of Hawaii’s major volcanoes stand at 10,000 feet and receive snowfall in the winter months. In fact, “Mauna Kea” translates to “White Mountain” due to its capping of snow.
The largest sand beach in the world is in Australia.
Fraser Island is the largest island in the world made completely of sand. The island sits on the east coast of Australia, measuring 76.4 miles long by 13.6 miles wide. Because of this, it was dubbed the 75-mile beach.
The world’s shortest commercial flight lasts less than a minute.
The world’s shortest flight lasts 57 seconds in good weather. The 1.7-mile flight spans between Westray and Papa Westray in Scotland.