The United States of America has an area of 3,615,122 square miles (9,4 mln square kilometers) almost all of which is on the American continent. Its overseas possessions are mainly small Pacific Islands (Guam, Samoa, etc.) plus Puerto Rico. There are 50 states and one Federal District, created as a site for the Federal Capital, Washington, and known as the District of Columbia.
The USA is considered to be the fourth largest country in the world. The 48 conterminous states extend from latitude 25° N to 50° N and longitude 125° W to 67° W. From New York in the East to San Francisco or Los Angeles in the West, i. e. from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast, you have to travel more than 4,500 km and leave behind four time zones. The other two states, Alaska and Hawaii, are situated respectively near the Arctic circle and in the tropical part of the Pacific Ocean (3,200 km from the mainland).
Thanks to these geographical extremes, different
parts of the country range from moist rain forest areas to arid desert regions and bald mountain peaks. Mount McKinley in Alaska of 20,320 feet (6,194 meters) above sea level is the highest point in the USA, while part of Death Valley in California is 282 feet (89 meters) below sea level. The West is an extensive mountain area occupying approximately one-third of the United States and is a region of tremendous variety, which can be subdivided into various other areas. It consists of high ranges of the Cordillera parallel to the Pacific Coast culminating on its eastern border in the Rocky Mountains (a high, discontinuous chain of mountains with peaks of 13,000 and 14,000 feet), which, in their turn, stretch from mountainous Alaska down to Mexico. These mountains are rich in resources such as gold, lead and uranium.
Among high mountains at the western edge of the Cordillera – the Sierra Nevada, the Cascades and the Coastal Ranges – there are broad, fertile valleys and large plateau regions with canyons, cliffs and basins that contain many important metals, oil and natural gas.
The heart of the United States is a vast plain, which extends from Central Canada southwards to Mexico and from the Cordillera eastwards to the Appalachian Mountains. These interior plains, which rise gradually like a saucer to higher land on all sides, are divided into two major parts: the eastern portion is called the Central Plains and the western portion – the Great Plains, both of which have good soil.
The Appalachian Mountains – a chain of low, almost unbroken mountains – are extremely rich in coal and iron. These mountains are at the western edge of the Atlantic coastal plain, which is a long, gently rolling lowland area. These coastal plains are very flat: nowhere in Florida, for example, is more than 350 feet above sea level. The soil is very poor, except in the fertile southern part – the Cotton Belt of the Old South and the citrus country of Central Florida.
Hawaii is a chain of twenty islands, only seven of which are inhabited. The mountainous islands were formed by volcanic activity and there are still a number of active volcanoes.
WEATHER AND CLIMATE
Virtually every type of climate can be found somewhere in the United States – from arctic in Alaska to subtropical in Florida.