London is a city in southwestern Ontario, Canada, situated along the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor. The city has a population of 768,918 according to the 2011 Canadian census. London is at the forks of the non-navigable Thames River, approximately halfway between Toronto and Windsor. The City of London is a separated municipality, politically separate from Middlesex County, though it remains the county seat.
London was first settled by Europeans between 1801 and 1804 by Peter Hagerman and became a village in 1826. Since then, London has grown to be the largest Southwestern Ontario municipality, and Canada's 11th largest municipality, having annexed many of the smaller communities that surrounded it. The city has developed a strong focus towards education, health care, tourism, and manufacturing.
London is home to Fanshawe College and the University of Western Ontario, which contributes to the city's reputation as an international center of higher education, scientific research and cultural activity. The city hosts a number of musical and artistic exhibits, as well as The Forest City Road Races. London's festivals contribute to its tourism industry, but its economic activity is centered on education, medical research, insurance, and information technology. London's university and hospitals are among its top ten employers. London lies at the junction of Highway 401 and 402, connecting it to Toronto, Windsor, and Sarnia. It also has an international airport, train and bus station.
The area was formed during the retreat of the glaciers during the last ice age, which produced areas of marshland, notably the Sifton Bog (which is actually a fen), as well as some of the most agriculturally productive areas of farmland in Ontario. The Thames River dominates London's geography. The North and South branches of the Thames River meet at the centre of the city, a location known as "The Forks" or "The Fork of the Thames." The North Thames runs through the man-made Fanshawe Lake, located in northeast London. Fanshawe Lake was created by Fanshawe Dam, constructed to protect the downriver areas from the catastrophic flooding which affected the city in 1883 and 1937.
London has a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb), though due to its downwind location relative to Lake Huron and elevation changes across the city, it is virtually on the Dfa/Dfb (hot summer) boundary favoring the former climate zone to the southwest of the confluence of the South and North Thames Rivers, and the latter zone to the northeast (including the airport). Because of its location in the continent, London experiences large seasonal contrast, tempered to a point by the surrounding Great Lakes. The summers are usually warm to hot and humid, with a July average of 20.8 °C (69.4 °F), and temperatures above 30 °C (86 °F) occur on average 10 days per year. In 2012, however, temperatures at or above 30 °C (86 °F) occurred a total of 27 times. The city is affected by frequent thunderstorms due to hot, humid summer weather, as well as the convergence of breezes originating from Lake Huron and Lake Erie. The same convergence zone is responsible for spawning funnel clouds and the occasional tornado. London is located in Canada's Tornado Alley. Spring and autumn in between are not long, and winters are cold but witness frequent thaws. Annual precipitation averages 1,011.5 mm (39.82 in). Its winter snowfall totals are heavy, averaging about 194 cm (76 in) per year. The majority of it comes from lake effect snow and snow squalls originating from Lake Huron, some 37 miles (59.55 kilometers) to the northwest, which occurs when strong, cold winds blow from that direction. From December 5th-9th 2010, London experienced record snowfall when up to 79 inches (2.01 meters) of snow fell in parts of the city. Schools and businesses were closed for three days and bus service was cancelled after the second day of snow.
London has a number of parks. Victoria Park in downtown London is a major center of community events, attracting an estimated 1 million visitors per year. Other major parks include Harris Park, Gibbons Park, Fanshawe Conservation Area (Fanshawe Pioneer Village), Springbank Park, and Westminster Ponds. The city also maintains a number of gardens and conservatories.