The Prime Meridian: A Climate Journey's Guide

Climate Connections in Space and Time

David Rooney stands by the Shepherd Gate Clock. i i

David Rooney, curator of timekeeping at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, stands by the Shepherd Gate Clock. Made in 1852, it was the first clock to provide Greenwich Mean Time to the public. Madhulika Sikka, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Madhulika Sikka, NPR
David Rooney stands by the Shepherd Gate Clock.

David Rooney, curator of timekeeping at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, stands by the Shepherd Gate Clock. Made in 1852, it was the first clock to provide Greenwich Mean Time to the public.

Madhulika Sikka, NPR

The prime meridian runs through the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, just outside London. Everywhere in the world measures time and distances from this line, which is marked on all world maps. On the opposite side of the globe, the equivalent is the international date line. Together they make a great circle around the world.

 

For our trip around the globe, NPR will stop at points along this circle to explore how the regions and oceans it passes through are connected with people and places thousands of miles away.

 

Renee Montagne talks to David Rooney, curator of timekeeping at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, about the strange story of how the prime meridian came to be in England.

Tourists visit the prime meridian in Greenwich. i i

Tourists visit the prime meridian, which separates East and West, at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Madhulika Sikka, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Madhulika Sikka, NPR
Tourists visit the prime meridian in Greenwich.

Tourists visit the prime meridian, which separates East and West, at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.

Madhulika Sikka, NPR

An invisible line running through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, marks the prime meridian — dividing the world into East and West. This unseen but very real line, extending from the North Pole to the South Pole, will also be a guide to NPR's yearlong Climate Connections series, a look at how people are changing Earth's climate, and how climate is changing people.

Tourists come to Greenwich from around the world to straddle this line. This place is also where we measure time and where Greenwich Mean Time gets its name.

The Climate Connections series, in collaboration with National Geographic, will look at a variety of places where climate has had a big impact. Here are just a few of those places:

  • Amid a 50-year drought in the West African country of Mali, women dip their buckets into a muddy channel to scoop up water for their vegetable gardens. A huge lake next to their town has dried up.
  • On the other side of the world, off the coast of Fiji, the waters are getting warmer — and higher. This could change the lives of millions of people who live surrounded by the sea.
  • Just below the Pyrenees in Spain, a parched field of alfalfa symbolizes other changes. Two years ago, when this area had its worst drought in decades, farmers argued and anguished over which fields to save, and which to let dry up.
  • If you walk the prime meridian all the way down to the bottom, you hit the thick ice of Antarctica. Some scientists predict it will warm up in coming decades. If too much ice melts here, people around the world could see the water rise and flood their homes.

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