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Small town in Marathon County is center of the northwest hemisphere

The NYPL's digital collections include a number of maps in the public domain, like this 1672 world map by Pieter Goos.
The NYPL's digital collections include a number of maps in the public domain, like this 1672 world map by Pieter Goos.

At exactly 45 degrees north latitude and 90 degrees west longitude in Marathon County, you will find the center of the northwest hemisphere. What makes the marker even more significant is that of the four spots like it in the world, it’s the only one that you can travel to.

But what’s the significance of the center of the northwest hemisphere? According to Ryan Holifield, a geography professor at UW-Milwaukee, it can affect things like the weather. But it's also just a neat spot to visit.

"This is a totally cool spot and it’s a fantastic opportunity to take a selfie and learn about latitude and longitude," Holifield says.

As for how this location affects weather in Wisconsin, Holifield says that it certainly does, however, things like ocean currents seem to have a much larger impact on the weather we get in the state.

“What we need to know is we are in the mid-latitudes and we are going to be looking to the west to see what the prevailing winds are going to be bringing us,” says Holifield. “It’s not going to have as much of an impact as, say, the ocean would have.”

Holifield says solar radiation also comes into play.

“The highest levels of solar radiation are at the equator and the lowest are at the poles, so we are halfway between those, we have basically half of the incoming solar radiation,” says Holifield.

While there is a marker that identifies the spot, Holifield says it's more of an approximation of the center of the northwest hemisphere.

“Basically the site where the plaque is is theoretically where the 45 is, so if you think in terms of just sheer angular distance…because of the flattening of the poles I believe the true center in terms of mileage would be about 9 miles north,” says Holifield.

While Holifield says having the center of the northwest hemisphere in Wisconsin may not significantly impact things like temperature or precipitation, he says that the spot should be enjoyed nonetheless.

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