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United States Geography Profile

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LocationNorth America, bordering both the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Pacific Ocean, between Canada and Mexico
Geographic coordinates38 00 N, 97 00 W
Map referencesNorth America
Areatotal: 9,833,517 sq km

land: 9,147,593 sq km

water: 685,924 sq km

note: includes only the 50 states and District of Columbia, no overseas territories
Area - comparativeabout half the size of Russia; about three-tenths the size of Africa; about half the size of South America (or slightly larger than Brazil); slightly larger than China; more than twice the size of the European Union
Land boundariestotal: 12,002 km

border countries (5): Canada 8,891 km (including 2,475 km with Alaska), Mexico 3,111 km

note: US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is leased by the US and is part of Cuba; the base boundary is 28.5 km
Coastline19,924 km
Maritime claimsterritorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

continental shelf: not specified
Climatemostly 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

note: many consider Denali, the highest peak in the US, to be the world’s coldest mountain because of its combination of high elevation and its subarctic location at 63 degrees north latitude; permanent snow and ice cover over 75 percent of the mountain, and enormous glaciers, up to 45 miles long and 3,700 feet thick, spider out from its base in every direction; it is home to some of the world’s coldest and most violent weather, where winds of over 150 miles per hour and temperatures of -93°F have been recorded.  
Terrainvast 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 extremeshighest point: Denali 6,190 m (Mount McKinley) (highest point in North America)

lowest point: Death Valley (lowest point in North America) -86 m

mean elevation: 760 m

note: Denali is one of the most striking features on the entire planet; at 20,310 feet, it is the crowning peak of the Alaska Range and the highest mountain on North America; it towers three and one-half vertical miles above its base, making it a mile taller from base to summit than Mt. Everest; Denali's base sits at about 2,000 feet above sea level and rises over three and one-half miles to its 20,310 foot summit; Everest begins on a 14,000-foot high plain, then summits at 29,028 feet.
 the peak of Mauna Kea (4,207 m above sea level) on the island of Hawaii rises about 10,200 m above the Pacific Ocean floor; by this measurement, it is the world's tallest mountain - higher than Mount Everest (8,850 m), which is recognized as the tallest mountain above sea level
Natural resourcescoal, copper, lead, molybdenum, phosphates, rare earth elements, uranium, bauxite, gold, iron, mercury, nickel, potash, silver, tungsten, zinc, petroleum, natural gas, timber, arable land;

note 1: the US has the world's largest coal reserves with 491 billion short tons accounting for 27% of the world's total

note 2: the US is reliant on foreign imports for 100% of its needs for the following strategic resources - Arsenic, Cesium, Fluorspar, Gallium, Graphite, Indium, Manganese, Niobium, Rare Earths, Rubidium, Scandium, Tantalum, Yttrium; see Appendix H: Strategic Materials for further details
Land useagricultural land: 44.5% (2018 est.)

arable land: 16.8% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.3% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 27.4% (2018 est.)

forest: 33.3% (2018 est.)

other: 22.2% (2018 est.)
Irrigated land264,000 sq km (2012)
Total renewable water resources3.069 trillion cubic meters (2017 est.)
Natural hazards

tsunamis; volcanoes; 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

volcanism: volcanic activity in the Hawaiian Islands, Western Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and in the Northern Mariana Islands; both Mauna Loa (4,170 m) in Hawaii and Mount Rainier (4,392 m) in Washington have been deemed Decade Volcanoes by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior, worthy of study due to their explosive history and close proximity to human populations; Pavlof (2,519 m) is the most active volcano in Alaska's Aleutian Arc and poses a significant threat to air travel since the area constitutes a major flight path between North America and East Asia; St. Helens (2,549 m), famous for the devastating 1980 eruption, remains active today; numerous other historically active volcanoes exist, mostly concentrated in the Aleutian arc and Hawaii; they include: in Alaska: Aniakchak, Augustine, Chiginagak, Fourpeaked, Iliamna, Katmai, Kupreanof, Martin, Novarupta, Redoubt, Spurr, Wrangell, Trident, Ugashik-Peulik, Ukinrek Maars, Veniaminof; in Hawaii: Haleakala, Kilauea, Loihi; in the Northern Mariana Islands: Anatahan; and in the Pacific Northwest: Mount Baker, Mount Hood; see note 2 under "Geography - note"

Geography - note

note 1: world's third-largest country by size (after Russia and Canada) and by population (after China and India); Denali (Mt. McKinley) is the highest point (6,190 m) in North America and Death Valley the lowest point (-86 m) on the continent

note 2: the western coast of the United States and southern coast of Alaska lie along the Ring of Fire, a belt of active volcanoes and earthquake epicenters bordering the Pacific Ocean; up to 90% of the world's earthquakes and some 75% of the world's volcanoes occur within the Ring of Fire

note 3: the Aleutian Islands are a chain of volcanic islands that divide the Bering Sea (north) from the main Pacific Ocean (south); they extend about 1,800 km westward from the Alaskan Peninsula; the archipelago consists of 14 larger islands, 55 smaller islands, and hundreds of islets; there are 41 active volcanoes on the islands, which together form a large northern section of the Ring of Fire

note 4: Mammoth Cave, in west-central Kentucky, is the world's longest known cave system with more than 650 km (405 miles) of surveyed passageways, which is nearly twice as long as the second-longest cave system, the Sac Actun underwater cave in Mexico - the world's longest underwater cave system (see "Geography - note" under Mexico);

note 5: Kazumura Cave on the island of Hawaii is the world's longest and deepest lava tube cave; it has been surveyed at 66 km (41 mi) long and 1,102 m (3,614 ft) deep

note 6: Bracken Cave outside of San Antonio, Texas is the world's largest bat cave; it is the summer home to the largest colony of bats in the world; an estimated 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats roost in the cave from March to October making it the world's largest known concentration of mammals

note 7: the US is reliant on foreign imports for 100% of its needs for the following strategic resources - Arsenic, Cesium, Fluorspar, Gallium, Graphite, Indium, Manganese, Niobium, Rare Earths, Rubidium, Scandium, Tantalum, Yttrium; see Appendix H: Strategic Materials for further details

note 8: three food crops are generally acknowledged to be native to areas of what is now the United States: cranberries, pecans, and sunflowers

Source: CIA World Factbook
This page was last updated on September 18, 2021

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