Line across the Earth
Equator
Nations or territories that touch the Equator (red) or the IERS Reference Meridian (blue)

An equator is the intersection of a sphere's surface with the plane perpendicular to the sphere's axis of rotation and midway between the poles. The Equator usually refers to the Earth's equator: an imaginary line on the Earth's surface equidistant from the North Pole and South Pole, dividing the Earth into the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere. Other planets and astronomical bodies have equators similarly defined. Earth's equator is about 40,075 kilometres (24,901 mi) long; 78.7% is across water and 21.3% is over land.

Geodesy of the Earth's Equator

The latitude of the Earth's Equator is by definition 0° (zero degrees). The Equator is one of the five notable circles of latitude on Earth, with the others being the two Polar Circles: the Arctic Circle and the Antarctic Circle, and the two Tropical Circles: the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The Equator is the only line of latitude which is also a great circle. The imaginary circle obtained when the Earth's equator is projected onto the sky is called the celestial equator.

Left: A monument marking the Equator near the town of Pontianak, Indonesia
Right: Road sign marking the Equator near Nanyuki, Kenya

In its seasonal apparent movement across the sky the sun passes over the Equator twice each year, at the March and September equinoxes. At the moment of the equinox, light rays from the center of the Sun are perpendicular to the surface of the Earth at the point on the Equator experiencing solar noon.

The Equator marked as it crosses Ilhéu das Rolas, in São Tomé and Príncipe

Places on the Equator experience the quickest sunrises and sunsets since the sun rises and sets almost vertically throughout the year. The length of a day (sunrise to sunset) at the Equator is almost constant during the year; each day is about 14 minutes longer than night because of atmospheric refraction and the fact that sunrise/sunset is the moment when the edge of the Sun's disk passes the horizon, rather than its centre.

The Earth bulges slightly at the Equator. Its "average" diameter is 12,750 kilometres (7,922 mi), but at the Equator the diameter is about 43 kilometres (27 mi) greater than at the poles.[1]

Locations near the Equator are good sites for spaceports, such as the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, as they are moving faster than other latitudes due to the Earth's rotation, and the added velocity reduces the fuel needed to launch spacecraft. Spacecraft must launch to the east, southeast or northeast to take advantage of this.

Precise location

The Marco Zero monument marking the Equator in Macapá, Brazil.

The Equator, like the Tropics, is not quite fixed. The true equatorial plane is always perpendicular to the Earth's spin axis; this axis is fairly stable but its position drifts about 15 metres (49 ft) during a year and the Equator shifts likewise.

Equatorial seasons and climate


Diagram of the seasons, depicting the situation at the December solstice. Regardless of the time of day (i.e. the Earth's rotation on its axis), the North Pole will be dark, and the South Pole will be illuminated; see also arctic winter. In addition to the density of incident light, the dissipation of light in the atmosphere is greater when it falls at a shallow angle.

Seasons result from the yearly revolution of the Earth around the Sun and the tilt of the Earth's axis relative to the plane of revolution. During the year the northern and southern hemispheres are inclined toward or away from the sun according to Earth's position in its orbit. The hemisphere inclined toward the sun receives more sunlight and is in summer, while the other hemisphere receives less sun and is in winter (see solstice). At the equinox the Earth's axis is not tilted toward the sun and the day is about 12 hours long over most of the Earth.

Near the Equator there is little distinction between summer, winter, autumn, or spring. The temperatures are usually high year-round—with the exception of high mountains in South America and in Africa. (See Andes Mountains and Mount Kilimanjaro.) The temperature at the Equator can plummet during rainstorms. In many tropical regions people identify two seasons: the wet season and the dry season, but many places close to the Equator are on the oceans or rainy throughout the year. The seasons can vary depending on elevation and proximity to an ocean.

The Equator lies mostly on the three largest oceans: the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Indian Ocean. The highest point on the Equator is at the elevation of 4,690 metres (15,387 ft), at , found on the southern slopes of Volcán Cayambe [summit 5,790 metres (18,996 ft)] in Ecuador. This is slightly above the snow line, and is the only place on the Equator where snow lies on the ground. At the Equator the snow line is around 1,000 metres (3,280 ft) lower than on Mount Everest and as much as 2,000 metres (6,560 ft) lower than the highest snow line in the world near the Tropic of Capricorn on Llullaillaco.

Equatorial countries and territories

The Equator traverses the land and/or territorial waters of 14 countries. Starting at the Prime Meridian and heading eastwards, the Equator passes through:
Co-ordinates Country, territory or sea Notes
Atlantic Ocean Gulf of Guinea
 São Tomé and Príncipe Ilhéu das Rolas
Atlantic Ocean Gulf of Guinea
 Gabon
 Republic of the Congo Passing through the town of Makoua.
 Democratic Republic of the Congo Passing 9 km south of central Butembo
 Uganda Passing 32 km south of central Kampala
Lake Victoria Passing through some islands of  Uganda
 Kenya Passing 6 km north of central Kisumu
 Somalia
Indian Ocean Passing between Huvadhu Atoll and Fuvahmulah of the  Maldives
 Indonesia The Batu Islands, Sumatra and the Lingga Islands
Karimata Strait
 Indonesia Borneo
Makassar Strait
 Indonesia Sulawesi (Celebes)
Gulf of Tomini
Molucca Sea
 Indonesia Kayoa and Halmahera islands
Halmahera Sea
 Indonesia Gebe Island
Pacific Ocean Passing 570 m north of Waigeo island,  Indonesia
Passing 42 km north of  Nauru
Passing 13 km south of Aranuka atoll,  Kiribati
Passing 21 km south of Baker Island,  United States Minor Outlying Islands
Passing 40 km north of Jarvis Island,  United States Minor Outlying Islands
 Ecuador Isabela Island in the Galápagos Islands
Pacific Ocean
 Ecuador Passing 24 km north of central Quito, near Mitad del Mundo
 Colombia Passing 4.3 km north of the border with Peru
 Brazil Amazonas
Roraima
Amazonas
Pará
Amapá
Pará - islands in the mouth of the Amazon River
Atlantic Ocean

Despite its name, no part of Equatorial Guinea's territory lies on the Equator. However, its island of Annobón is 155 kilometres (96 mi) south of the Equator, and the rest of the country lies to the north.

GPS reading taken on the Equator close to the Quitsato Sundial, at Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador.[2]

Crossing the Equator

Certain navies, such as the Royal Navy and the US Navy, have a tradition of holding ceremonies on board ship to mark sailors' first crossing of the Equator. These rites of initiation have in the past been notorious for their brutality. Milder line-crossing ceremonies, typically featuring King Neptune, are also held for passengers' entertainment on some civilian ocean liners and cruise ships.

Exact length

In two widely used geodetic standards, the Equator is modelled as a circle whose radius is a whole number of metres. In 1976 the IAU chose a radius of 6,378.140 kilometres (3,963.192 mi), later refined by the IUGG to 6,378.137 kilometres (3,963.191 mi) and adopted in WGS-84, though the yet more recent IAU-2000 has retained the old IAU-1976 value. If it were really circular the length of the Equator would be exactly 2π times the assumed radius.

The geographical mile is defined as one arc minute of the Equator, so it has different values depending on which radius is assumed, e.g. 1,855.3248 metres (6,087.024 ft) for WGS84 or 1,855.3257 metres (6,087.027 ft) for IAU-2000.

The earth is modelled commonly as a sphere flattened 0.336% along its axis. This makes the Equator 0.16% longer than a meridian (a great circle passing through the two poles). The IUGG standard meridian is, to the nearest millimetre, 40,007.862917 kilometres (24,859.733480 mi), one arc minute of which is 1,852.216 metres (6,076.82 ft), explaining the SI standardization of the nautical mile as 1,852 metres (6,076 ft), more than 3 metres (9.8 ft) less than the geographical mile.

The sea-level surface of the Earth (the geoid) is irregular, so the actual length of the Equator is not so easy to determine. Aviation Week and Space Technology on 9 October 1961 reported that measurements using the Transit IV-A satellite had shown the equatorial "diameter" from longitude 11° West to 169° East to be 1,000 feet (300 m) greater than its "diameter" ninety degrees away.

Climate

Lowlands around the Equator generally have a tropical rainforest climate, also known as an equatorial climate, though cold currents cause some regions to have tropical monsoon climates with a dry season in the middle of the year. Usually, average annual temperature is around 30 °C (86 °F) during the day and 23 °C (73 °F) at night. Rainfall is very high, usually from 2,500 to 3,500 mm (98 to 138 in) per year. Average rainy days are around 200 per year and average annual sunshine hours around 2,000.
Climate data for Macapá, Brazil in South America
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 29.7
(85.5)
29.2
(84.6)
29.3
(84.7)
29.5
(85.1)
30.0
(86)
30.3
(86.5)
30.6
(87.1)
31.5
(88.7)
32.1
(89.8)
32.6
(90.7)
32.3
(90.1)
31.4
(88.5)
30.71
(87.28)
Daily mean °C (°F) 26.4
(79.5)
26.2
(79.2)
26.3
(79.3)
26.5
(79.7)
26.8
(80.2)
26.8
(80.2)
26.8
(80.2)
27.4
(81.3)
27.8
(82)
28.1
(82.6)
27.9
(82.2)
27.4
(81.3)
27.03
(80.65)
Average low °C (°F) 23.0
(73.4)
23.1
(73.6)
23.2
(73.8)
23.5
(74.3)
23.5
(74.3)
23.2
(73.8)
22.9
(73.2)
23.3
(73.9)
23.4
(74.1)
23.5
(74.3)
23.5
(74.3)
23.4
(74.1)
23.29
(73.92)
Rainfall mm (inches) 299.6
(11.795)
347.0
(13.661)
407.2
(16.031)
384.3
(15.13)
351.5
(13.839)
220.1
(8.665)
184.8
(7.276)
98.00
(3.8583)
42.60
(1.6772)
35.50
(1.3976)
58.40
(2.2992)
142.5
(5.61)
2,571.5
(101.2393)
Avg. rainy days (≥ 0.1 mm) 23 22 24 24 25 22 19 13 6 5 6 14 203
Mean monthly sunshine hours 148.8 113.1 108.5 114.0 151.9 189.0 226.3 272.8 273.0 282.1 252.0 204.6 2,336.1
Source: UN),[3] Hong Kong Observatory[4]
Climate data for Pontianak, Indonesia in Asia
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 32.4
(90.3)
32.7
(90.9)
32.9
(91.2)
33.2
(91.8)
33.0
(91.4)
33.2
(91.8)
32.9
(91.2)
33.4
(92.1)
32.6
(90.7)
32.6
(90.7)
32.2
(90)
32.0
(89.6)
32.7
(90.9)
Daily mean °C (°F) 27.6
(81.7)
27.7
(81.9)
28.0
(82.4)
28.2
(82.8)
28.2
(82.8)
28.2
(82.8)
27.7
(81.9)
27.9
(82.2)
27.6
(81.7)
27.7
(81.9)
27.4
(81.3)
27.2
(81)
27.7
(81.9)
Average low °C (°F) 22.7
(72.9)
22.6
(72.7)
23.0
(73.4)
23.2
(73.8)
23.4
(74.1)
23.1
(73.6)
22.5
(72.5)
22.3
(72.1)
22.6
(72.7)
22.8
(73)
22.6
(72.7)
22.4
(72.3)
22.7
(72.9)
Rainfall mm (inches) 260
(10.24)
215
(8.46)
254
(10)
292
(11.5)
256
(10.08)
212
(8.35)
201
(7.91)
180
(7.09)
295
(11.61)
329
(12.95)
400
(15.75)
302
(11.89)
3,196
(125.83)
Avg. rainy days (≥ 0.1 mm) 15 13 21 22 20 18 16 25 14 27 25 22 238
Source: UN)[5]
Climate data for Libreville, Gabon in Africa
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 29.5
(85.1)
30.0
(86)
30.2
(86.4)
30.1
(86.2)
29.4
(84.9)
27.6
(81.7)
26.4
(79.5)
26.8
(80.2)
27.5
(81.5)
28.0
(82.4)
28.4
(83.1)
29.0
(84.2)
28.58
(83.44)
Daily mean °C (°F) 26.8
(80.2)
27.0
(80.6)
27.1
(80.8)
26.6
(79.9)
26.7
(80.1)
25.4
(77.7)
24.3
(75.7)
24.3
(75.7)
25.4
(77.7)
25.7
(78.3)
25.9
(78.6)
26.2
(79.2)
25.95
(78.71)
Average low °C (°F) 24.1
(75.4)
24.0
(75.2)
23.9
(75)
23.1
(73.6)
24.0
(75.2)
23.2
(73.8)
22.1
(71.8)
21.8
(71.2)
23.2
(73.8)
23.4
(74.1)
23.4
(74.1)
23.4
(74.1)
23.30
(73.94)
Rainfall mm (inches) 250.3
(9.854)
243.1
(9.571)
363.2
(14.299)
339.0
(13.346)
247.3
(9.736)
54.10
(2.1299)
6.600
(0.25984)
13.70
(0.5394)
104.0
(4.094)
427.2
(16.819)
490.0
(19.291)
303.2
(11.937)
2,841.7
(111.87614)
Avg. rainy days (≥ 0.1 mm) 17.9 14.8 19.5 19.2 16.0 3.70 1.70 4.90 14.5 25.0 22.6 17.6 177.4
Mean monthly sunshine hours 176.7 182.7 176.7 177.0 158.1 132.0 117.8 89.90 96.00 111.6 135.0 167.4 1,720.9
Source: UN),[6] Hong Kong Observatory[7]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "Equator". National Geographic - Education. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  2. ^ Instituto Geográfico Militar de Ecuador (24 January 2005). "Memoria Técnica de la Determinación de la Latitud Cero" (in Español). 
  3. ^ "Weather Information for Macapa". 
  4. ^ Climatological Information for Macapa, Brazil - Hong Kong Observatory
  5. ^ "Weather Information for Pontianak". 
  6. ^ "Weather Information for Libreville". 
  7. ^ Climatological Information for Libreville, Gabon - Hong Kong Observatory

References

External links