Earth Circumference Calculations
How can I calculate the circumference of the Earth at
different latitudes? Example: What would the distance around the Earth be
at 30 degrees latitude?
As you go from 0 degrees latitude (the equator) to 90 degrees (north or
south poles), the circumference of the circle defined by that latitude line
will decrease in direct proportion to the cosine of the angle of latitude.
Thus, the circumference of the circle is
C = 2 pi r cos(x),
where pi = 3.14159..., r = the earth's equatorial radius = 6378 km, and x is
the angle of latitude.
This formula is not entirely correct, as it assumes the earth is a perfect
sphere, which it isn't. In fact, the earth bulges out a bit at the equator,
as a consequence of its rotation. This effect is small, however, and the
formula is accurate to within one percent.
Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois
Click here to return to the Environmental and Earth Science Archives
Update: June 2012