How to Read a World Globe

globe image by danimages from

If you have a world globe, you may not be familiar with how to use it properly. There are many different lines, names and other markings on a world globe that do not get used, especially since technological innovations allow you to find exact locations with the click of a mouse. However, there are several references on a globe that make reading it and measuring distance straightforward. Learn how to identify references like the compass, latitude and longitude and the international dateline to read your globe.

Black compass rose image by Makhnach from

Locate the eight-pointed star on the globe. This is called a compass and helps you determine which direction to go when measuring between locations.

Note that the “N” represents “North,” the “E” represents “East,” the “S” represents “South” and the “W” represents “West.” If you are moving from California to Illinois, you would be moving East. Remember the points on the compass by using them as an anagram for “Never Eat Soggy Waffles.”

Note that the diagonal points in between the singular “N,” “S,” “E,” and “W,” such as “NE,” are read in the same manner. For example, “NE” means “Northeast.” These points are named by their location on the compass; for example, SE is in between “S” and “E” and SW is in between “S” and “W.”

world of reflection image by Graham Dance from

Locate the line running from east to west directly across the centre of your globe. This is the equator and is one of the main reference points when reading a world globe. Locations above the equator are north and locations below the equator are south.

Find the line that runs from the North Pole to the South Pole, cutting the globe in half vertically. This is the prime meridian, the second main reference point of the globe. Locations to the left of the prime meridian are west, while locations to the right are east. Note that both the equator and prime meridian are at 0 degrees.

Look at the point where the equator and the prime meridian intersect. This is where the globe numbering system begins.

Globe in Hand image by Towards Ithaca from

Make a note that the lines running parallel to the equator are referred to as “latitude.” The lines running parallel to the prime meridian are called “longitude.” Latitude and longitude lines are 15 degrees apart and are labelled with a numbered degree and a direction. The equator and prime meridian lines are thicker and have a subtle grid that indicate each degree in between the lines.

Find a location on your world globe by reading the labels that indicate country, state, city or province. Wrap a piece of string so that it is centred on the location, going horizontally across and reaches all the way to the prime meridian.

Note the location of the city or country between longitude lines. Look at the grid cell or dash the string is hitting on the prime meridian. This is the longitude degree of your location. For example, if the strings hits three grid cells up from 15 degrees east, the location is at 18 degrees east, or 18E.

Use the same process to find the latitudinal degree of your location; use the equator as your reference point. For example, if the string hits five grid cells up from 45 degrees north, write the measurement as 50 degrees north or 50N.

Locate the international dateline on your globe, which is an imaginary vertical line along the 180-degree meridian. This line helps you determine what time it is in locations across the world.

Find your location on your world globe by reading the labels. Note if it is east or west of the international dateline. Find a second location either east or west of the international dateline. Make a note of the time.

Count the longitude lines, or meridians, between the two locations. Meridians that are east of the international dateline gain one hour, while meridians west of the international dateline lose one hour. For example, if it is 3 p.m. in your location, it will be 10 p.m. in a location that is seven meridians East of the international dateline.

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