It can sometimes be confusing to remember the difference between latitude and longitude. Which one runs north to south and which one runs east to west? Which one comes first when you see a set of coordinates? Here in an easy way to remember the difference between latitude and longitude.
The Ladder Example
The easiest way to remember the difference between latitude and longitude is by associating the terms with different parts of a ladder. Lines of latitude run east and west. To remember, think of the rungs of a ladder (which sounds somewhat similar to latitude) which run across, connecting the two longer pieces. As the rungs go up and down a ladder, so do the lines of latitude. The equator, which is a zero degree latitude, marks the middle of the earth and lines of latitude spread out to both poles. A latitude reading will tell you how far north or south a location is. The North Pole is at 90 degrees latitude (or 90.0° N) and the south poles is at -90 degrees latitude (or 90.0° S). Latitude degrees with a – sign indicate a location in the southern hemisphere and degrees with a positive number are located in the northern hemisphere.
Lines of longitude run from pole to pole. To remember, think of the long parts of a ladder. Longitude will indicate a location east or west of the prime meridian. Lines of longitude go from zero at the Prime Meridian up to 180 at the International Date Line. The designator of east or west will indicate the relative direction the line of longitude is from the Prime Meridian. Longitudes with a – sign indicate a location in the western hemisphere and degrees with a positive number are located in the eastern hemisphere.
Here’s a little poem to help school children to remember:
I’m climbing the Ladder of Latitudes, latitudes, latitudes.
I’m climbing the ladder of latitudes, all around the world.
It’s a LONG LONG way from pole to pole, pole to pole, pole to pole.
It’s a LONG LONG way from pole to pole, so we call those LONGITUDES.
Which Comes First, Latitude or Longitude?
When you see a pair of coordinates and can’t remember whether latitude or longitude comes first, think about alphabetical order to remember. Latitude comes first in alphabetical order and it also is the first coordinate in a set. Longitude is the second coordinate in the set.