The Southern Hemisphere is the half sphere of Earth which is south of the equator. It contains all or parts of five continents (Antarctica, Australia, about 90% of South America, the southern third of Africa, and several southern islands off the continental mainland of Asia), four oceans (Indian, South Atlantic, Southern, and South Pacific) and most of the Pacific Islands in Oceania. Its surface is 80.9% water, compared with 60.7% water in the case of the Northern Hemisphere, and it contains 32.7% of Earth's land.
Due to the tilt of Earth's rotation relative to the Sun and the ecliptic plane, summer is from December to March and winter is from June to September. September 22 or 23 is the vernal equinox and March 20 or 21 is the autumnal equinox. The South Pole is in the middle of the southern hemispherical region.
Southern Hemisphere climates tend to be slightly milder than those at similar latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, except in the Antarctic which is colder than the Arctic. This is because the Southern Hemisphere has significantly more ocean and much less land; water heats up and cools down more slowly than land.
In the Southern Hemisphere the sun passes from east to west through the north, although north of the Tropic of Capricorn the mean sun can be directly overhead or due south at midday. The Sun rotating through the north causes an apparent right-left trajectory through the sky unlike the left-right motion of the Sun when seen from the Northern Hemisphere as it passes through the southern sky. Sun-cast shadows turn anticlockwise throughout the day and sundials have the hours increasing in the anticlockwise direction. During solar eclipses viewed from a point to the south of the Tropic of Capricorn, the Moon moves from left to right on the disc of the Sun (see, for example, photos with timings of the solar eclipse of November 13, 2012), while viewed from a point to the north of the Tropic of Cancer (i.e., in the Northern Hemisphere), the Moon moves from right to left during solar eclipses.
The southern temperate zone, a subsection of the Southern Hemisphere, is nearly all oceanic. This zone includes the southern tip of Uruguay and South Africa; the southern half of Chile and Argentina; parts of Australia, going south from Adelaide, and all of New Zealand.
The Sagittarius constellation that includes the galactic centre is a southern constellation and this, combined with clearer skies, makes for excellent viewing of the night sky from the Southern Hemisphere with brighter and more numerous stars.
Forests in the Southern Hemisphere have special features which set them apart from those in the Northern Hemisphere. Both Chile and Australia share, for example, unique beech species or Nothofagus, and New Zealand has members of the closely related genera Lophozonia and Fuscospora. The eucalyptus is native to Australia but is now also planted in Southern Africa and Latin America for pulp production and, increasingly, biofuel uses.
Approximately 800,000,000 humans live in the Southern Hemisphere, representing only 10–12% of the total global human population of 7.3 billion. Portuguese is the most spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere.
List of continents and countries
Continents and microcontinents
- Africa (approximately one third, from south of Somalia in the east to south of Libreville in Gabon in the west)
- Antarctica (the entire continent and its associated islands are wholly within the Southern Hemisphere)
- Asia (the very southern island portion including East Timor, most of Indonesia and a few islets of the Maldives)
- Australia (the entire mainland is in the Southern Hemisphere)
- South America (mostly, from south of the Amazon River mouth in the east to south of Quito in Ecuador in the west)
- Zealandia (New Caledonia, New Zealand and other associated islands are wholly within the Southern Hemisphere)
Countries and territories
Media related to Southern Hemisphere at Wikimedia Commons