Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Geography, Part 2

Green and white cover like a student composition book, title I Used to Know That: Geography
I just finished a quick read through Geography from the "I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot from School" series. (Seriously. This is real.)

It was fun, and would be quite a good read for anyone trying to get the basics of world geography. Here are a few facts I particularly liked or didn't know.

The hottest recorded temperature on Earth is 136°F in El Azizia, Libya. But the hottest place overall, based on an average annual temperature of 96°F, is in western Australia.

The average temperature of the oceans, combined, is just 39°F, just about the same as Lake Superior's.

Oceans are salty "because fresh water flows into them.... The original oceans were probably only slightly salty." Dissolved minerals that arrived from rivers and streams, combined with evaporation that concentrates the minerals, are what have made the oceans salty.

The cod fisheries off Newfoundland were key to the development of the northern New World colonies. Tasty, nutritious, and easy to preserve by salting, cod fit a niche market created by the Catholic church's dietary strictures. How it was fished affected colonization, too: the "British used small boats, close to the shore, catching the cod with hook and line. To preserve the fish for transport back to England, they dried and salted the fish on land, a process that required settlements of shore-based workers....  Meanwhile, the French processed their catch with salt aboard ship and were not at all dependent on settling people in the new world."

The Amazon River carries 10 times as much water as the Mississippi. At its mouth, it's up to 30 miles wide during the rainy season (one to six miles during the dry season). The fresh water flows 125 miles out into the ocean before completely mixing with the Atlantic.

China has only 7 percent of the world's arable land, with about 20 percent of its population.

Lake Baikal in Siberia is the deepest lake. It holds as much water as all five of the Great Lakes.

Everyone knows who the three most populous countries are (China, India, the United States), but what country is fourth? Hint: Barack Obama lived there when he was a boy.

Europe is a peninsula of peninsulas. I just never thought of that before exactly.

The Himalayas are young mountains, as are the Rockies. If the Alps hadn't been sculpted by glaciers, they would be taller than the Himlayan upstarts.

Africa's interior had little contact with the rest of the world before the 1800s because the continent has a smooth coastline with very few natural harbors and its rivers were not navigable because of rapids, waterfalls, and sandy shallows.

Nile crocodile mothers and fathers guard the eggs in their nests for three months. Once the babies emerge, they "are taken to the water by their mother and remain with her for at least two years before reaching maturity." These are 20-foot reptiles, behaving like mammals, minus the breastfeeding.

The dodo was from the island of Mauritius. I don't remember ever hearing that before.

Australia never experienced an Ice Age, so its environment has been relatively stable for 40 million years. That's part of the reason 80 percent of its animals and flowering plants are unique to the continent.

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