The New York Public Library
AMAZING U.S. Geography
Follow a chinook over the Rocky Mountains. Trace the course of theMississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Discoverwhere gold is mined and fish are farmed in the United States.Explore our fascinating nation from Alabama to Wyoming, and findanswers to all your questions about U.S. geography...
Where is the highest waterfall in the United States? See page 33.
What is a sand sea? See page 40.
Why does California have so many earthquakes? See page 41.
Why are people from new England called Yankees? See page 69.
How many U.S. presidents were born in Ohio? See page 89.
Where did the Santa Fe Trail begin? See page 96.
How large is mammoth Cave in Kentucky? See page 108.
How hot are the Hot Springs in Arkansas? See page 116.
Also in The New York Public Library Answer Books series:
Amazing African American History
Amazing Hispanic American History
Amazing Women in American History
About the Author
THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY's bestselling reference books include The New York Public Library Desk Reference, The New York Public Library Book of Answers, The New York Public Library Student's Desk Reference, and The New York Public Library Kids' Guide to Research. ANDREA SUTCLIFFE is a freelance writer and editor and a contributor to the National Geographic Desk Reference.
Read an Excerpt
The New York Public Library Amazing U.S. GeographyA Book of Answers for Kids
By Andrea Sutcliffe
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-471-39294-4
Chapter OneThe United States in the World
Where in the world is the United States of America?
The United States is a country on the North American continent in the Western Hemisphere. It is also in the Northern Hemisphere. It is one of 191 independent countries in the world.
Where is the northernmost point of the 50 United States?
It is Point Barrow, Alaska, which lies at 71°23' north latitude (90° north latitude is at the North Pole) and 156°29' west longitude.
Where is the southernmost point of the 50 states?
It is Ka Lae, Hawaii, at 18°55' north latitude and 155°41' west longitude.
How large is the United States in land area compared with other countries in the world?
The United States is the world's fourth-largest country in land area, with 3,678,900 square miles (9,565,140 sq km). The largest country in the world, with 6,592,812 square miles (17,141,311 sq km), is Russia; it is almost twice as big as the United States. Canada ranks number two in size (3,831,000 sq mi/9,960,600 sq km), and China is number three (3,691,500 sq mi/9,597,900 sq km). China and the United States are very similar in size.
How many miles wide is the United States?
The distance depends on whether Alaska or Hawaii is included. Measured from the farthestpoints west and east in the conterminous United States (meaning the 48 states that have a common boundary)-which are West Quoddy Head, Maine, and Point Arena, California-the United States is 2,892 miles (4,656 km) wide.
Measured between the farthest points between the eastern United States and Alaska-Soldier Key, Florida, and Cape Wrangell, Alaska-the distance is 5,503 miles (8,860 km). From Soldier Key, Florida, to Kure Island, Hawaii, the distance is 5,859 miles (9,433 km).
How far is it from the southern tip of Texas to the Canadian border?
From southernmost Texas, it is 1,602 miles (2,579 km) due north to the 49th parallel (the 49th degree of latitude that defines part of the U.S.-Canadian border).
Why was the 49th parallel chosen as part of the U.S.-Canadian boundary?
After a great deal of discussion, Great Britain (which governed British Canada until 1931) and the United States finally agreed in 1846 to make the 49th parallel the western part of their boundary. This boundary line starts in Minnesota and extends west to what is now Washington State. There was only one problem: the 49th parallel cuts across the lower half of Vancouver Island. Rather than divide up the island, the United States gave its portion to Canada.
How large is the United States in population compared with the rest of the world?
In 2000, the United States was the world's third-largest nation, with more than 281 million people. China was more than four and a half times larger. Here were the top 10 countries in population at the turn of the century:
1. China 1.3 billion
2. India 1 billion
3. United States 281 million
4. Indonesia 212 million
5. Brazil 170 million
6. Pakistan 150 million
7. Russia 145 million
8. Bangladesh 128 million
9. Japan 126 million
10. Nigeria 123 million
The United States has almost five times as many people as Great Britain, France, or Italy. It has six times as many people as Canada.
How many babies are born each year in the United States?
More than 4 million babies (about 11,000 a day) are born each year in the United States. That seems like a lot, until you learn that more than 137 million babies are born in the world each year.
Where do U.S. cities rank in relation to the world's biggest cities?
Just two U.S. cities (in metropolitan area population) were in the world's top 10 cities in size in 2000, according to the United Nations: New York and Los Angeles. (The figures for New York and Los Angeles are smaller here than the U.S. Census Bureau estimates on page 53. This is because different organizations come up with different numbers depending on how they estimate population.)
How many people will be living in the United States by 2025?
The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that 338 million people will be living in the United States by 2025-about 57 million more people than in 2000. One reason for this growth is that each year nearly 1 million immigrants come to the United States to live. If it weren't for these immigrants, the U.S. population would eventually start to shrink. That's because American women are having slightly fewer children than it would take to keep the population at the current level.
Some of the world's countries are not growing at all. For example, Italy and Germany will have fewer people in 2025 than they do today because so many women there are having just one child or no children at all. But there's still a population explosion in the world. Many women in Asian and African countries are having three or more children on average. The fastest-growing region in the world western Africa-most countries there will double in population by 2025.
What is the population density-the average number of people per square mile-in the United States?
For the United States, the figure is 77 people per square mile. The most densely populated country in the world is Monaco, with more than 55,000 people per square mile. Of course, Monaco is one of the world's smallest countries, at just a little over 0.5 square mile (1.3 sq km). The country where you'd be least likely to have noisy neighbors is Mongolia, which has just four people per square mile.
To calculate population density, divide the number of people in a country into its number of square miles. Remember that the numbers given are averages for the country as a whole, and cities and suburbs have much higher densities. For example, Washington, D.C., has a population density of more than 9,000 people per square mile.
What is the infant mortality rate in the United States?
In the United States, about 7 of every 1,000 babies born alive don't live to be a year old. Although that rate is considered good, it's not as good as in several other countries, mainly because many women in the United States still do not receive adequate healthcare.
Babies born in Iceland have the best chance of making it to age 1-fewer than 3 of every 1,000 babies there die before their first birthday. In Japan the infant mortality rate is not quite 4 of every 1,000. Other nations that have a better infant mortality rate than the United States include the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Australia, and Taiwan.
For the world as a whole, the infant mortality rate is 59 babies of every 1,000 born. The worst infant mortality rate in the world is in Angola, where 196 of every 1,000 babies die before their first birthday.
What is the life expectancy for a child born in the United States today?
Americans born today can expect, on average, to live 77 years. A person born in sub-Saharan Africa today can expect to live only 49 years. People born in Japan can expect to live the longest, to age 80, while people in Iceland, Sweden, and Switzerland will live to age 79, on average.
Is the United States the richest country in the world?
Yes. Economists measure a country's wealth by looking at the value of the goods and services it produces each year. They call this the GNP, which stands for gross national product. The United States had the world's highest GNP by far-nearly $8 trillion in 1998. Japan was second, with $4 trillion, followed by Germany, France, Great Britain, and Italy, in that order.
Another way to measure wealth is to divide a country's GNP by the number of people who live in that country. This is called the gross national product per capita. Using this measure, the world's richest country is Luxembourg, not the United States. The next richest countries are, in order, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, Japan, and Singapore. The United States ranks seventh.
Does the United States have more working women than any other country?
No. The United States is in sixth place, with about 71 percent of women working for pay. Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland all have a higher percentage of women who work for pay.
Does the United States consume more electricity than any other country in the world?
Yes, by far. The United States generates and consumes about one-fourth of all the electricity worldwide. China is second, consuming about one-tenth of the world's electricity, followed by Russia, Japan, Germany, India, and Canada, in that order.
How much electricity in the United States is generated by nuclear power plants?
About one-fifth of electricity generated in the United States comes from nuclear power plants. But most of the electricity we use-about one-half-is made by burning coal. (It's no coincidence that the United States is the world's leading coal producer.) Natural gas and petroleum generate another one-fifth of U.S. electricity, and the rest comes from hydroelectric (dams) and other sources.
The United States operates 104 of the world's 436 nuclear reactors used to generate power. France is second, with 56 reactors. Japan has 53, the United Kingdom has 35, and Russia has 29.
Is the United States one of the world's biggest air polluters?
Yes; in fact, the United States is the world's leading air polluter, responsible for one-fourth of all carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions result from burning fossil fuels, such as gasoline, oil, natural gas, and coal. China is the world's second worst air polluter, accounting for 12 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, followed by Russia, Japan, Indonesia, and India. Most of these emissions result from industrial activity. But automobiles contribute greatly to the amount of carbon dioxide sent into the atmosphere, and America has more cars than any other country in the world.
Does the United States have more paved roads than China?
The United States has nearly 4 million miles (6.4 million km) of roads, most of which are paved. That is more than five and a half times China's 719,000 miles (1.16 million km) of roads. China has about the same amount of land area as the United States.
Do bullet trains, like those in Japan and Europe, run in the United States?
High-speed trains, often called bullet trains, are being planned in several regions of the United States. A high-speed train is defined as one that can run between 150 and 320 miles per hour (242 and 515 km/hr). Amtrak's Acela trains travel at speeds up to 150 miles per hour and are now connecting Boston and Washington, D.C. California hopes to build a high-speed rail system that will have trains running 200 or 300 miles per hour (322 or 483 km/hr). Several other states are considering upgrading existing rail lines so they can offer high-speed train service.
High-speed trains have been running for many years in several European countries; France began its service in 1981. Bullet trains have been operating in Japan since the mid-1960s.
Do people in the United States own more computers and cell phones than people in other countries?
In 2000, a total of 164 million computers were in use in the United States-the largest number in the world. Japan, Germany, Great Britain, France, and Italy, in that order, were the next-largest computer users. The world total was 579 million computers.
Nearly one of every four people in the United States owns a cellular phone. But several other countries top that rate. More than half the people in Finland have cell phones. (Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the world's largest manufacturers of cell phones is Nokia, a Finnish company.) Other countries that surpass the United States in cell phone use include Australia, Austria, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, and Sweden.
Do most people in the world have telephones in their homes?
No. For example, according to the World Bank, only one of every five people in Russia has a phone line. If you lived there, you'd have to wait an average of five years to get phone service. The wait is even longer in many African, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European countries. Governments and phone companies in these countries are still in the process of expanding phone service, which takes a great deal of time and money.
Does the United States have the most Internet users in the world?
Yes; 4 of every 10 Internet users in the world live in the United States. But if you consider the percentage of a country's population that uses the Internet, the United States ranks fourth, behind Canada, Sweden, and Finland. In 2000, about 280 million people worldwide were using the Internet.
Does the United States sell its farm products to other countries?
Yes. For example, U.S. farmers are the world's leading exporters of corn-in 1999 they sold more than one-fifth of the corn they grew to other countries.
The United States is the world's second-largest exporter of wheat (the countries of the European Union are the first), and it is the third-largest exporter of rice, behind Thailand and Vietnam.
Geographic Terms to Know
Country: An independent political state or nation and its territories. A country has distinct boundaries, a government, a unique name, and a flag.
Continent: One of the seven principal divisions of land on Earth. The continents are North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica.
Western Hemisphere: the area occupied by the continents of North and South America and their surrounding waters that lies between 20° west longitude and 160° east longitude.
Northern Hemisphere: the half of the Earth that lies north of the equator, between 0° (the Equator) and 90° north latitude (the North Pole).
Equator: The imaginary line of 0° latitude that lies midway between the North and South Poles.
Prime meridian: The imaginary line denoting 0° longitude that passes through the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England.
Longitude: The angular distance east or west of the prime meridian, from 0° to 180° east or west.
Latitude: The measure of distance north and south of the Equator, from 0° to 90° north or south. Lines of latitude run east-west and are parallel to each other.
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Table of Contents
PART I: THE UNITED STATES AS A NATION.
1. The United States in the World.
2. Weather and Climate in the United States.
3. Land and Water in the United States.
4. People and Places in the United States.
PART II: THE STATES.
5. New England (Maine, New Hampshire,Vermont, Massachusetts, RhodeIsland andProvidence Plantations, Connecticut).
6. The Mid-Atlantic (New York, Pennsylvania,New Jersey, Delaware,Maryland).
7. The Midwest (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan,Wisconsin,Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota,South Dakota, Nebraska,Kansas).
8. The South (the District of Columbia, Virginia,West Virginia,Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina,South Carolina, Georgia,Florida, Alabama, Mississippi,Louisiana, Arkansas).
9. The Southwest (Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado,New Mexico,Arizona).
10. The West (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah,Nevada, California,Hawaii).
11. The Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Alaska).
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