North America is the third largest continent in the world. It is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean in the east, Gulf of Mexico in the south, the Pacific Ocean in the west and the Arctic Ocean in the north. To the north, it is separated from the eastern most tip of Siberia by the Bering Strait.
• Two of the world’s largest countries in area, i.e. the USA and Canada are present in this continent.
• North America mainly includes three countries: the USA, Canada and Mexico.
• Central America: Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
• Its greatest extent, north to south 7400km and east to west 5700 Km.
• It was discovered by Columbus in 1492.
• It is bounded by the Arctic, Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans in the north, east-and west respectively, while in south, it connected With South America through the Isthmus of Panama.-
• Culturally, it is divided into the Anglo America (Canada and U.S.A.) and Latin America (south of U.S.A.) including Mexico and Central American Countries.
North America can also be divided into four great regions:
1. Great Plains: stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian Arctic;
2. The geologically young, mountainous west: including the Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, California and Alaska; the raised but relatively flat plateau of the Canadian Shield in the northeast;
3. The varied eastern region: including the Appalachian Mountains, the coastal plain of the Atlantic Seaboard, and the Florida peninsula.
4. Mexico and its long plateaus and cordilleras fall largely in the western region, although the eastern coastal plain does extend south along the Gulf.
• The Western Cordilleras
The Western Cordilleras are young fold mountain ranges spread from Alaska to Mexico. It consist of the Rocky Mountain range in the east, the Sierra Nevada range at the center of the continent, the Coastal range in the west and the Alaskan range in the north. The highest peak of North America is Mount Mickinely.
The plateaus surrounded by mountain ranges are the Columbia plateau, the Colorado plateau and Mexican plateau. The Great Basin also lies in the Western Cordilleras.
The plateau of Colorado lies to its south. There are many gorges in the Colorado plateau, and many of them are almost 1,800 metres deep.Very deep gorges with wall-like sides are called canyons.The Canyon of Colorado in the largest canyon in the world. This area consists of the Appalachian Mountains and their extension to Labrador and New Foundland.
• The Great Central Plains
The Great Central Plains are located between the Western Cordilleras and the Eastern Highlands, the Great Central Plains show a variety of physical features.
The North American Great Central Plains also contain the hot and dry deserts of Arizona and Mexico towards the south and also the famous Niagara falls.
The Crater Lake is a spectacular mountain lake located in the Cascade Mountains of the United States of America. Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and the seventh deepest in the world. It is known to terrify visitors with its oppressive stillness.
These plains also host the five big lakes of North America- The Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huran, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. These provide the plains with an ample supply of fresh water. The Great Central Plains contain the vast and flat Mississippi river basin in its central and southern parts.
• The Eastern Highlands
The Eastern Highlands include the Appalachian ranges and the Labrador plateau. To east of the Appalachian The Piedmont and the Atlantic coastal plains are located. The Appalachian ranges and the Labrador Plateau are separated by the St. Lawrence Valley.
Climate of North America
The climate is divided as:
• Tundra type of climate: This type of climate prevails in northern parts of Canda and Greeenland. Winters are long and very cold while summers are cool and short. Blizzards, severe cold winds blow during winter.
• Cool Temperate Interior type of climate: This type of climate prevails to the south of Tundra region. Where, tempearture is below freezing point in winter and summers are warm.The annual precipitation is low with a maximum in summer.
• Laurentian type of climate: Laurentian type of climate is around the valley of river St.Lawrence.Here winters are cold due to Cold Labrador current and summers are warm due to the Gulf stream current.
• West European type of climate: This type of climate is along the north western coast. Due to the warm pacific drift the sea and rivers are free from freezing
• Continental interior type of climate: This type of climate is experienced by the central central parts of USA. Here, winters cold Summers are quite hot. The rainfall is uncertain and often drought like conditions prevail.
• Warm Temperate East margin type of climate: This type of climate is found in Eastern USA. Summers are hot and humid while winters are cool and relatively dry in this region.
• The Mediterranean type of climate: This type of climate is found along the west coast of California. Here, summers are hot and dry but winters are mild and wet.
• The Hot Desert type of climate: This type of climate is found in southern California, Arizona and northern parts of Mexico. Summers are very hot and dry. Days are quite hot but nights become very cold. This is extreme type of climate.
• The Mountainous type of climate: The Mountainous type of climate is found in the Rocky Mountains, which is controlled by the altitude.
Important Rivers of North America
• The Great Lakes — Superior, Huron, Michigan, Ontario and Erie — make up the largest body of fresh water on Earth, accounting for one-fifth of the freshwater surface on the planet
• The lakes are on the U.S.-Canadian border, touching Ontario in Canada and Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York in the United States.
• Lake Superior has the largest volume of all the Great Lakes. It is the coldest and deepest and because it has a cooler climate and poor soil conditions it is the least polluted.
• Lake Michigan is the second largest of the Great Lakes. It is located completely within the United States. It is the only one of the Great Lakes to be completely within one country.
• Lake Huron, by volume, is the third largest of the Great Lakes. Lake Huron also includes Georgian Bay. Lake Huron is popular with cottagers because it has shallow sandy beaches and rocky beaches suitable for swimming, boating, fishing, and other water activities.
• Lake Erie is the smallest Great Lake in terms of volume, but the fourth largest in area.
• The largest salt mine in the world is the Goderich Mine which runs partially under Lake Huron.
Important Seas, Bays and Gulfs