The Geographical Center of North America Was Pinpointed In a Small Town Called Center
The small town of Center in North Dakota turns out to be the actual geographical center of the North American continent. The search for the continent’s middle has been going on at least since 1930’s. In 1964, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said about the endeavour that: “There is no generally accepted definition of geographic center [of any geographic area], and no completely satisfactory method for determining it.”
In 1931, the USGS claimed that close to another town, Rugby, also in North Dakota, was the geographic center of the continent. In 1995, however, they changed the location to a small lake some 20 miles away. But, even though it might seem relatively straightforward, this question is quite difficult to answer with precision. For starters, researchers have debated whether to factor in islands in this search, as well as the constantly changing coastlines.
“There are all these people out there saying, ‘There’s no real good way to do this,'” Peter Rogerson, a professor of geography at the University at Buffalo in New York who developed the new geographical method, said “[But] as a geographer, my feeling is that if we want to come up with a good way of defining a center, we can and we should.”
The technique used also take into account the curvature of the Earth since it affects the actual distance between any two locations on the planet. The method doesn’t take the islands into consideration and focuses only on the landmass. In 2016, the results were in, and as it turns out, the small town of Center with a population of just 570 is smack in the middle of the entire continent.
As Rogerson said, the previous method was to balance a cardboard cutout on a pin. Quite smart, actually, but seriously outdated in this day and age. The new method a so-called “azimuthal equidistant map projection,” preserving the important numbers of the calculation and projects the 3D model of the continent on a 2D surface. This projection was then imputed into a computer and established the mathematical formula.
“It could always be more exact,” said Rogerson. He added that other scientists may take different approaches to the problem, and that his answer doesn’t close the door to future pursuits.