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United States Geography 1999

    Location: North America, bordering both the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Pacific Ocean, between Canada and Mexico

    Geographic coordinates: 38 00 N, 97 00 W

    Map references: North America

    total: 9,629,091 sq km
    land: 9,158,960 sq km
    water: 470,131 sq km
    note: includes only the 50 states and District of Columbia

    Area—comparative: about one-half the size of Russia; about three-tenths the size of Africa; about one-half the size of South America (or slightly larger than Brazil); slightly larger than China; about two and one-half times the size of Western Europe

    Land boundaries:
    total: 12,248 km
    border countries: Canada 8,893 km (including 2,477 km with Alaska), Cuba 29 km (US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay), Mexico 3,326 km
    note: Guantanamo Naval Base is leased by the US and thus remains part of Cuba

    Coastline: 19,924 km

    Maritime claims:
    contiguous zone: 12 nm
    continental shelf: not specified
    exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
    territorial sea: 12 nm

    Climate: mostly temperate, but tropical in Hawaii and Florida, arctic in Alaska, semiarid in the great plains west of the Mississippi River, and arid in the Great Basin of the southwest; low winter temperatures in the northwest are ameliorated occasionally in January and February by warm chinook winds from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains

    Terrain: vast central plain, mountains in west, hills and low mountains in east; rugged mountains and broad river valleys in Alaska; rugged, volcanic topography in Hawaii

    Elevation extremes:
    lowest point: Death Valley -86 m
    highest point: Mount McKinley 6,194 m

    Natural resources: coal, copper, lead, molybdenum, phosphates, uranium, bauxite, gold, iron, mercury, nickel, potash, silver, tungsten, zinc, petroleum, natural gas, timber

    Land use:
    arable land: 19%
    permanent crops: 0%
    permanent pastures: 25%
    forests and woodland: 30%
    other: 26% (1993 est.)

    Irrigated land: 207,000 sq km (1993 est.)

    Natural hazards: tsunamis, volcanoes, and earthquake activity around Pacific Basin; hurricanes along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts; tornadoes in the midwest and southeast; mud slides in California; forest fires in the west; flooding; permafrost in northern Alaska, a major impediment to development

    Environment—current issues: air pollution resulting in acid rain in both the US and Canada; the US is the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels; water pollution from runoff of pesticides and fertilizers; very limited natural fresh water resources in much of the western part of the country require careful management; desertification

    Environment—international agreements:
    party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
    signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Biodiversity, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes

    Geography—note: world's fourth-largest country (after Russia, China and Canada)

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    Revised 1-Mar-99
    Copyright © 1999 Photius Coutsoukis (all rights reserved)