Fact Check

Is Detroit Really 'Further East Than Atlanta'?

Maybe it's the terminology that's confusing.

Published Jan. 28, 2023

 (Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
Image courtesy of Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Detroit, Michigan, lies east of Atlanta, Georgia.

Sometimes you come across a fact that makes you stop and realize that many things we think we know are just a matter of perspective.

Atlanta is in Georgia, a state that is both in the U.S. South and also on the East Coast. Detroit is in Michigan, which is in the Midwest. Operating on that information alone, one might assume that Detroit is west of Atlanta.

But that's not true. Atlanta is actually west of Detroit. Its coordinates are (emphasis added): 33.7488° N, 84.3877° W while Detroit's are 42.3314° N, 83.0458° W.

Just to be certain, we double-checked with University of New Mexico geographer Maria Lane, who confirmed in an email to Snopes that Detroit is indeed east of Atlanta.

Lane responded with screenshots of Google Maps with coordinates showing central Atlanta's and Detroit's locations relative each other, confirming that although it may be difficult for some to conceptualize, the midwestern city of Detroit is in fact east of what many think of as the East Coast city of Atlanta.

Lane explained that the eastern coastline of the U.S. extends progressively further to the east as the coast goes northward. The same concept applies to Reno, Nevada, and Los Angeles, California, on the opposite side of the country.

"So it shouldn't be any surprise that places on the southern 'east coast' are further west than places on the northern 'east coast,'" Lane wrote. "And northern places that we consider 'inland' or 'Midwest' when compared to those far-north areas of the east coast, can still be relatively farther east than coast-adjacent places in the South. It's not an optical illusion; it's just a geographic misconception!"

Bethania Palma is a journalist from the Los Angeles area who has been working in the news industry since 2006.

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