The Imbalance of the Hemispheres

Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres are drastically unalike. Substantially more of Earth’s land is in the Northern than in the Southern Hemisphere. Whereas the planet overall is substantially more ocean than land, land and ocean are notably closer to balance in the Northern Hemisphere, whereas the Southern Hemisphere is uncontestedly dominated by ocean.

Correlated to this but also to other factors, the Northern Hemisphere hosts an even more lopsided proportion of Earth’s human population: more than 7 of 8 humans on Earth live North of the Equator. In fact, so much of the land of the Southern Hemisphere is so sparsely populated that 1 in 5 humans in the Southern Hemisphere live on the Indonesian island of Jawa (Java).

What I really want to highlight here, though, is a drastic discrepancy in climate. Water has a massively higher specific heat than most of the composition of continents, so much of the Southern Hemisphere is significantly more moderated in seasonal variations than the Northern. Furthermore, the Southern Hemisphere is plain out of land in mid- and mid-high-latitudes, and at the intersection of the population distribution and this land distribution, there are many populated areas of the Northern Hemisphere that climatologically have no Southern Hemisphere equivalent. In the Southern Hemisphere, there is tropical, then there’s a gradual easing that makes it slightly into temperate territory, and then there’s Antarctica.

A particularly stark factor in which to behold discrepancies: snow. The Northern Hemisphere is dotted with large cities that regularly experience snow in the winter: Chicago, Toronto, New York, Berlin, Belgrade, Tehran, Kabul, and Seoul. There’s just no such thing in the Southern Hemisphere.

Even the cities on east coasts of the southern ends of non-Antarctic continents receive barely any snow: Hobart on Tasmania, Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand (Te Waipounamu), Port Elizabeth in South Africa, and even Maseru, the capital of Lesotho with quite some elevation. One who’s willing to travel to the very southern reaches of South America could finally find some significant snow in Ushuaia, but Ushuaia really doesn’t count as anywhere near a large city. In none of these cities will one find a July where below freezing is the norm like the frozen Januaries of places like Chicago (sidenote: even Boston on average spends more of January below than above freezing historically, but this balance has become questionable with global warming). For lots of snow, one needs to start going up the Andes. Otherwise, the next step is straight to polar Antarctica (where for much of the continent, it still doesn’t snow much; it’s a desert after all).

It is worth mentioning that there are a handful of sub-Antarctic islands that somewhat bridge the gap between climate on Antarctica and climate on other continents, but they only do as much bridging as they can while being small and so moderated by the waters around. This is how amusing Bouvet Island’s climate chart is.

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