The Geography of the United States

The United States includes the contiguous United States, The Islands of Hawaii, Alaska, and the five insular territories if Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and America Samoa. The main land mass of the country is called the contiguous United States.

The area of the country is so vast that there is not a geographical feature that the country does not possess. Both Canada and Russia are larger, but the land mass of 9,522,055 square kms is located in such width the country experiences every climate that the world has to offer. If a geologist wanted to produce a journal featuring the world’s different geological features, he would not need to leave the States to find them.

International border with Canada

The main land mass spreads from 47 and 25 degrees north in terms of latitude, and from 70 degrees and 117 degrees west in terms of latitudes. There is a three hour difference in time between Los Angeles on the west coast and New York on the east coast.

Despite its size the main landmass rather surprisingly only has land borders with two countries, Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. To the east of the country there is the Atlantic Ocean and the west of the country is faced by the Pacific Ocean.

Generally, the east of the country is dominated by low flat plains, with the majority of the highland being found on the western side of the country. However, within each major region there are anomalies, and people who are located in the eastern city of New York do not have to travel very far to find a mountain resort to ski in.

The most mountainous region of the country is found on the west coast. Over 200 million years ago the breaking up of the Pangea supercontinent resulted in the North American plate sliding underneath the Pacific plate. This resulted in the west coast of the states being up lifted and formed the mountain areas that are found today. It was at this time that America separated itself from Europe with the Atlantic Ocean filling the area as the two continents spread apart from each other. There is still plate tectonic activity today as smaller plates are moving in different directions.

One of the most famous active zones is found along the San Andreas Fault, spreading from north to south along the western coastline of the country. This is a transform fault which means that two plates are sliding alongside each other and when there is a sudden movement it causes an earthquake.

An active Mount St Helens

The two plates involved are the Pacific Plate and the North American plate. Both San Francisco and Los Angeles have suffered from earthquakes and they are certain to experience them again in the fullness of time. To the north of San Francisco a division of the Pacific plate sees the Juan de Fuca Plate moving under the North American plate.

This has caused the North West Mountains to continue to rise and has also formed a ring of volcanoes along the coastline. The most famous is Mount St Helens, and it is located only 96 miles of Oregon. There are so many other areas of the country where plate tectonics has left a spectacular impression on the landscape. The Grand Canyon is described as being one of the seven wonders of the natural world and is the remnants of the Colorado River cutting huge canyons into the plateau as it was still being uplifted.

The huge varieties of climates has also been influential in shaping the land. The hottest temperature on the planet are experienced in Death Valley, and this has resulted in a huge desert areas. The south of the country experiences hot humid wet conditions throughout the year and this has left behind mangrove swamp areas.

The rainfall of the country has formed huge rivers, such as the Mississippi, that have carved out spectacular valleys and formed huge deltas along their course. The geography of the States is wide and varied and had been influential in influencing the development of the country.