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North America: large plains and long mountain ranges

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North America occupies an area of 23,473,000 sq km. Among the countries that make it up, Canada is the largest country with 9,970,000 sq km, followed by the United States of America with 9,355,000 sq km. The surface of this continent represents approximately 15.75% of the planet’s land area. North America is home to 440,000,000 people, or 7.76% of the world population.

The North American continent extends from east to west from 12 ° longitude west of Nordost Rundingen (Cape Northeast) in Greenland to 172 ° longitude east of the island of Attu in Alaska. The northernmost point of North America is Cape Morris Jesup in eastern Greenland (83 ° N). This is the northernmost point of the entire planet, considering the mainland. While in the south it extends up to 14 ° north latitude in southern Mexico.

The continent, which has a coastal extension of 60,000 km, is characterized by an extremely irregular coastal contour. Along the coasts there are numerous islands, especially in the far north, and three large gulfs. Hudson Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Alaska.

North America is washed by the Gulf of Mexico in the south, the Pacific Ocean in the west, the Arctic Ocean in the north and finally by the Atlantic Ocean in the east.

It is crossed by the Tropic of Cancer, while in the south the border between Mexico with Guatemala and Belize marks the beginning of Central America (although from a geographical point of view it would be the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to join it with Central America).

North America includes 3 states (United States of America, Canada, Mexico) and three dependencies (Bermuda (United Kingdom), Greenland (Denmark) and Saint Pierre and Miquelon (France)).


The highest mountain in North America is Mount Denali also known as McKinley (6,194 m), which is located in Alaska. While the lowest point, 86 m below sea level, is Death Valley, California.

The western part of the United States and Canada is furrowed from north to south for a length of about 3,200 km from the great mountainous system of the Rocky Mountains. These mountains often reach 4,000 meters in height, and reach maximum height with Mount Elbert (4,399 meters) in Colorado.

The Sierra Nevada chain, which extends, in a north-south direction, for a length of 600 km, has peaks that exceed 4,000 meters. These mountains reach the highest point with Mount Whitney at 4,421 meters.

In Mexican territory, the natural continuation of the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada is represented by the Sierra Madre mountain range. In the eastern Sierra Madre there are some important volcanoes including the Pico de Orizaba (5,610 meters, the highest peak in Mexico) and the Popocatépetl (5,452 meters).


North America is dominated by two important water collection systems. The first is that of the Great Lakes. Which is formed by a series of lakes including Lake Superior (84,131 sq km) is the second largest lake in the world after the Caspian Sea, but considering only freshwater lakes, it is the first in the world. Lake Michigan (58,016 sq km), Lake Huron (61,797 sq km), Lake Erie (25,612 sq km) and Lake Ontario (18,941 sq km)) are all part of the Great Lakes basin. These lakes flow into the Atlantic Ocean with the Saint Lawrence river.

The second is the Mississippi-Missouri system (5,970 km long, with a basin of 3,328,000 sq km), which represents the longest river in North America, and the fourth in the world after the Nile, the Amazon River and Chang Jiang. This water system conveys the waters of most of the central regions of the United States of America. Another important river is the 4,241 km long Mackenzie, which flows into the Arctic Ocean.

North America has large islands especially in the far north. Particularly noteworthy are Greenland, which with an area of 2,175,600 sq km is the largest island in the world. The island of Baffin (476,065 sq km, 5th island in the world), the island of Ellesmere (212,687 sq km) and Victoria Island (212,198 sq km).


Extending between 14 ° N (just south of the Tropic of Cancer) and the Arctic, North America has significant climatic differences. In Mexico, the Yucatán Peninsula has a hot and humid tropical climate with abundant rainfall. In the highlands, the climate is milder and rainfall decreases. The northern Mexican plateau and the eastern coastal strip of the Gulf of California are among the driest regions in North America.

The United States has significant climatic differences within it, moving from Florida’s subtropical and tropical climate, with mainly summer rains. Continuing north along the Atlantic coast one encounters a more rigid climate caused by the cold current of the Labrador, which causes a maritime climate with harsh winters, hot summers and abundant rainfall.

The Rocky Mountain region has a typical mountain climate. In the territories west of the rocky mountains, the aridity and summer temperatures are very high. Along the Pacific Ocean coast, there is a mild and rainy climate in the north, more arid in the south.

The climate of the northern interior regions of Canada is mainly continental, with long, cold and particularly harsh winters, short summers, and low rainfall. The areas of San Lorenzo and the Great Lakes enjoy a less harsh climate. Alaska, Greenland and the northern part of Canada are part of the subarctic climate zone, with harsh climate, cold winters and low rainfall.


From the tourism point of view, according to the statistics of the World Tourism Organization (WTO), North America with 90,700,000 tourist arrivals in 2006 represented 10.7% of world tourism.

The most visited countries in North America are: the United States of America, Mexico and Canada.

North America presents innumerable attractions for tourists, ranging from Mexican archaeological sites, to the wealth and modernity of the cities of the United States of America and Canada, to the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains, American national parks, colonial Mexican towns, the Yucatan and Baja California seas, the pristine expanses of Canada and Alaska.

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