North America is located in the northern part of the western
hemisphere (or northern hemisphere). It borders the Atlantic Ocean
on the east, the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Arctic Ocean on the
north, and South America by the Panama Canal on the south. North
America also includes many islands in the Caribbean Sea (mainly the
West Indies). North America covers an area of 24.228 million
square kilometers (including nearby islands), which accounts for
about 16.2% of the total land area of the earth today, and is the
third largest continent in the world. The population is 528.72
million (July 2008), ranking 4th in the world.
About 17,000 to 40,000 years ago, humans reached North America for the first time through the Bering Land Bridge (the location of the Bering Strait) during the last ice age. The first people to arrive are called ancient Indians. After Columbus arrived in the Americas in 1492, the Native Americans of North America began contact with the civilizations of Eurasia. The race and culture of North America today reflect the exchange and influence between European colonists, North American natives, African slaves and their descendants. The northern part of North America was strongly influenced by European colonists, while the southern part was relatively more influenced by indigenous people and African culture. Influenced by European colonists, the vast majority of North American residents now speak English, French or Spanish.
It is believed that America was named after the Florentine traveler
Amerigo Vespucci by the German cartographers Martin Waldseemüller and
Matthias Ringmann. Vespucci, who explored South America between 1497 and
1502, was the first European to suggest that America was not the East
Indies but a new unknown continent. In 1507, Waldseemüller mapped the
world, where he put the name "America" on the South American continent
in the region of present-day Brazil. He explained the name in the book
Cosmographiae Introductio that came with the map:
Today, these parts of the world (Europe, Africa and Asia) have already been fully explored, and the fourth part of the world has been discovered by Amerigo Vespucci. And since Europe and Asia are named after women, I do not see any obstacles to calling this new region Ameriga, Amerigo Land, or America, after the name of the wise man who discovered it.
Later, when North America appeared on the maps, this name extended to it: in 1538, Gerard Mercator used the toponym "America" to designate the entire western hemisphere on a world map.
Some researchers argue that at that time it was not customary to call the discovered lands by their first names (with the exception of royalty), but only by their last names, so the theory of the origin of the name on behalf of Amerigo Vespucci is controversial. Alfred Hudd proposed in 1908 the theory that the continent was named after the Welsh merchant Richard America of Bristol, who is believed to have financed the expedition of John Cabot, who discovered Newfoundland in 1497. Another hypothesis says that America was named after a Spanish sailor with the ancient Visigothic name Amairic. There are also versions that the name "America" is rooted in the languages of the Indians.
Since the 1970s, Native American activist movements have promoted the term "Turtle Island" for North America.
North America is washed from the west by the Pacific Ocean with the Bering Sea, Alaska and California bays, from the east by the Atlantic Ocean with the Labrador, Caribbean, St. Lawrence and Mexican seas, from the north by the Arctic Ocean with the Beaufort, Baffin, Greenland and Hudson Bay seas.
From the west it is separated from Eurasia by the Bering Strait. It is separated from South America by the Isthmus of Panama. It is located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere.
North America also includes numerous islands: Greenland, the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, the Aleutian Islands, Vancouver Island, the Alexander Archipelago, etc. The area of North America, together with the islands, is 24.2 million km², without islands 20.4 million km².
Extreme points of North America:
The northern point is Cape Murchison, 71°50′ N. sh. 94°45′ W e.HGЯO
The southern point is Cape Maryato, 7°12′ N. sh. 80°52′ W e.HGЯO
Western point — Cape Prince of Wales, 65°35′ N. sh. 168°05′ W e.HGЯO
Eastern point - Cape St. Charles (Cape), 52°24′ N. sh. 55°40′ W e.HGЯO
The length of North America from north to south is 66°, or 7326 km, and the length from west to east is 112°, or about 5700 km. Also, this continent has the greatest length of the coastline, reaching 60 thousand km in length.
History of discovery and exploration of North America
About 1000 years ago, the ancient inhabitants of Scandinavia, the Vikings, reached the mainland.
In 982, Eric the Red was expelled from the Icelandic colony for a murder he had committed. He heard stories about lands lying at a distance of about 1000 kilometers from Iceland. There he went with a small detachment. After a difficult voyage, he managed to reach this land. Eric called this place Greenland ("green country"). In 986, Eric gathered a group of Vikings who settled on the island he had discovered.
Eric's son Leif the Happy went even further and reached the Labrador Peninsula.
On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered an island named "San Salvador", one of the Bahamas. But he discovered the mainland coast of Central America only in 1502.
In May 1497, John and Sebastian Cabot set sail from the port of Bristol on the Matthew. At the end of June, they landed on an island named Newfoundland, mistaking it for Asia, and continued sailing along the coast east of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. After sailing along the coast for about a month and finding large stocks of fish, they headed back.
In 1512, Ponce de Leon discovered the peninsula of Florida; In 1513, Balboa saw the Pacific Ocean from the same height of the Isthmus of Panama. Grijalva in 1515 discovered the eastern coast of Mexico, or New Spain, which was then conquered by Fernando Cortes in 1519-1521.
The first French ship sent to discover new lands in North America set off in 1524 under the command of the Florentine Giovanni Verrazzani, who sailed around the east coast of North America from Florida to Acadia.
In April 1534, having sailed from the city of Saint-Malo, the Frenchman Jacques Cartier reached the island of Newfoundland after 20 days and, having rounded the island, entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence through the Ben-Ile Strait. Having made maps of the area, Cartier returned back to France. In 1535, three Cartier ships approached Newfoundland again. He rounded the island of Anticosti from the north and entered the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. Having hired Huron guides, the Frenchman led the ships along the river and soon arrived at a place that the Indians called Stadicona (now the city of Quebec is located there).
In early October, the French arrived at the Iroquois settlement of Oshelag. Cartier climbed a mountain that towered above the village, which he called Mont-Royal (Royal Mountain). Rapids were visible from the mountain, which did not allow ships to rise higher up the river. Cartier returned to Stadacon. The French wintered here, building a fort.
In 1541 Cartier's third voyage began. He was supposed to establish colonies in the lands he explored under the general name of New France. But the idea failed. The traveler returned to France, fell into disfavor there and died in oblivion in 1557.
Already in 1577, the Englishman Frobisher passed through one of the entrances to Hudson Bay, and from that time a long series of expeditions began to explore the Arctic coasts of North America. In 1585-86, John Davis sailed around the western coast of Greenland, discovered the Cumberland Bay of Baffin Island, surveyed the North American coast in detail, and determined the exact location of the Hudson Strait; in 1609-11 Hudson explored the northeastern and eastern coasts of North America; in 1611-15 Baffin and others entered Baffin Bay.
In 1608, Samuel de Champlain founded the city of Quebec on the site of the village of Stadacona, and in 1611, near the settlement of Hochelaga, Montreal.
In 1542-1543, the Spaniard Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo sailed north from what is now Mexico to explore the California coast.
The proof that North America is not connected with Asia was presented in 1648 by the Cossack Dezhnev, who discovered the Bering Strait, which Bering later visited in 1725–28 and gave it its name.
In the middle of the 18th century, the discovery of the northwestern
coast of the mainland took place during the Great Northern Expedition.
In July 1741, the crew of the ship "Saint Peter" under the command of
Vitus Bering saw the American coast at about 58 ° N. sh., and the ship
"Saint Paul" under the command of Alexei Chirikov approached the
American coast a little to the south - near 55 ° N. sh.
The northwestern shores of North America, starting in 1775, were explored by the Spaniards Juan Ayala, Francis, de la Bodega y Quadra, and the British navigator James Cook in 1777-78. Mackenzie in 1789 reached the mouth of the river named after him, and in 1786 La Pérouse and in 1792–94 Vancouver mapped the northwest coast.
The journey of the Spaniard Hernando de Soto in 1539-43 into the lands washed by the Mississippi River was the first expedition deep into North America. In 1540-1542 Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led another Spanish expedition north from Mexico. In 1673, Louis Jollier, a French-born fur trader, and Jacques Marquet, a French missionary, reached the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers, where they learned from the Indians that the Mississippi emptied into the Gulf of Mexico, not the Pacific Ocean. In 1682 the Frenchman de La Salle reached the mouth of the Mississippi River. In 1804-06, the American expedition of Lewis and Clark explored new lands in the western United States (the "Louisiana Purchase").
The ancient continent of Laurentia formed the core of North America
between 1.5 and 1 billion years ago in the Proterozoic eon. Between the
late Paleozoic and early Mesozoic, North America, like other modern
continents, separated from the supercontinent Pangea.
Geology of Canada
Canada is one of the world's oldest geological regions, with more than half of its territory composed of Precambrian rocks that have been above sea level since the beginning of the Paleozoic era. The mineral resources of Canada are very diverse and extensive. The Canadian shield, located in the north of the continent, has reserves of ores of iron, nickel, zinc, copper, gold, lead, molybdenum and uranium. Significant concentrations of diamonds have also recently been discovered in the Arctic, making Canada one of the world's largest suppliers of diamonds. There are many mining towns throughout the Canadian Shield. The largest and most famous of them is Greater Sudbury in Ontario. The Sudbury deposits are an exception to the normal process of mineral formation, as there is strong evidence that the Sudbury Basin formed on the site of an ancient meteorite crater. Nearby is the lesser-known Temagami Magnetic Anomaly, which bears a striking resemblance to the Sudbury Basin, suggesting the presence of a second crater equally rich in metal ores.
Geological provinces of the United States
The union of 48 states of the United States, lying south of Canada, can be divided into approximately five physical-geographical provinces:
Appalachian folding belt.
The geology of Alaska belongs to the Cordillera, while the large islands of the state of Hawaii are formed by Neogene volcanoes located above the hotspot.
Geology of Central America
Central America is quite geologically active with occasional earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In 1976, Guatemala was hit by a massive earthquake that killed 23,000 people; Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, was destroyed by earthquakes in 1931 and 1972, in the latter case about 5,000 people died; three earthquakes devastated El Salvador, one in 1986 and two in 2001; in 2009, an earthquake devastated northern and central Costa Rica, killing at least 34 people; also in Honduras, a powerful earthquake in 2009 killed 7 people.
Volcanic eruptions are not uncommon in the region. In 1968, the Arenal volcano in Costa Rica erupted, killing 87 people. Fertile soils from the weathering of volcanic lavas allow high population densities to be maintained in the fertile agricultural mountain regions.
Central America has many mountain ranges, the longest being the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, the Cordillera Isabella and the Cordillera de Talamanca. Between the ranges lie fertile valleys that are suitable for human life, and where the majority of the population of Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala currently live. The climate and soils of the valleys are also suitable for the production of coffee, beans and other crops.
Coastal ranges stretch across the west of North America. To the east is the Appalachian Mountains. These are very ancient, collapsing mountains. There are such mountain ranges as the Sierra Nevada, the Cascade Mountains, the Rocky Mountains.
The Laurentian Upland corresponds to the mainland of the Canadian Shield. Features of its relief are associated with long-term denudation and glacial processing. The gently undulating surface of the hill has a height of 1537-6100 meters.
The central plains correspond to part of the N American Platform plate. The height is 200-500 m. The relief is erosive and slightly undulating, and in the northern part the relief is glacial with moraine ridges and outwash fields. In the southern part of this relief there are forest covers. These elevations include the Ozark Rise (about 760 m high) and the Washita Lowlands (up to 884 m), which is a folded base of the Epihercynian platform.
The Great Plains are the foothills of the Cordillera Plateau. Height 500-1500 m. Appeared in the era of Laramian folding, due to the accumulation of destruction products of the Cordillera and the subsequent uplift of the surface. The geomorphological structure is quite complex, there are bedrock, moraine, fluvioglacial and loess Quaternary rocks.
The coastal lowlands correspond to the epihercynian platform in the south of the mainland. The height is not higher than 200 meters. In the rear parts there are many erosional forms, in the coastal zone there are bars, lagoons, sandy beaches, spits, flat low terraces.
The highest point in North America is Mount Denali (until 2015 it was called McKinley) - 6190 m, the lowest - Death Valley - 86 m below sea level.
The climate ranges from arctic in the far north to subequatorial in
Central America and the West Indies, oceanic in the coastal regions,
continental in the interior. Average temperatures in January increase
from -36 °C (in the north of the Canadian Arctic arch.) to 20 °C (in the
south of Florida and the Mexican Highlands), in July - from 4 °C in the
north of the Canadian Arctic arch. up to 32 ° C in the southwestern
United States. The greatest amount of precipitation falls on the Pacific
coast of Alaska and Canada and in the northwestern United States
(2000-3000 mm per year); the southeastern regions of the mainland
receive 1,000–1,500 mm; the central plains, 400–1,200 mm; and the
intermountain valleys of the subtropical and tropical regions of the
Cordillera, 100–200 mm. North of 40-44° N. sh. in winter, a stable snow
cover forms. Summers are warm, with rare showers, droughts and dry
The climatic conditions of North America are exceptionally varied. This is the "northernmost" continent of the Earth, closest to the pole, at the same time, stretching for more than 7 thousand kilometers from north to south. The mainland is located in all climatic zones of the planet, excluding the equatorial zone. Due to such a variety of climate types in North America, almost all natural zones of the Earth were formed, and the wildlife of the mainland is distinguished by an exceptional variety of plant and animal species.
The Arctic climate is typical for the islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Greenland and northern Alaska. Bare rocky arctic deserts in the south are covered with mosses and lichens, in the north they are hidden under thick sheet glaciers. Winters are exceptionally harsh, with temperatures averaging between -32°C and -40°C and below in the interior of Greenland. Precipitation is very little less than 250-100 mm per year. Summer practically does not come, only in the hottest months of the year the air temperature rises above 0 °C.
The subarctic climate zone is located in northern and central Canada and in central and southern Alaska. Here are the natural zones of the tundra and forest-tundra. Summer is very short, the snow melts in June, and the warm weather lasts for about a month. Beyond the Arctic Circle comes the polar night and the polar day. With the advancement to the north, less and less precipitation falls - from 500 to 100 mm per year. In winter, temperatures drop from -24 to -40 °C. Winters are harsh and long. The maximum precipitation occurs in the summer, when a moderate air mass dominates the region. In summer the temperature rises from 0 to +16 °C in the south.
The temperate zone is the largest climate zone in North America, covering the northern and central United States and southern Canada. The temperate zone is also divided into three sectors. The mildest of them is the western one. Due to the warm North Pacific current, a large amount of precipitation falls here, mainly in winter. The largest amount of snow recorded on the mainland fell during the year exactly here - in the area of \u200b\u200bthe Rainier volcano (USA) - during the winter of 1971-72. it amounted to 31,102 mm. On average, precipitation here falls from 2000 to 3000 mm. Summers are quite cool with temperatures of +8 - +16 °C. Relatively temperate winters are warm from 0 to -16 ° C in the north. The central sector is much more severe. Continental and sharply continental types of climate are observed here, in contrast to the maritime climate in the west. The amount of precipitation, on average, is from 250 to 500 mm per year. Due to the large number of clear days a year (due to the distance from the ocean), very large annual temperature amplitudes are observed here - from +16 - +24 ° C in summer to -8 -32 ° C in winter. In the north, there is a natural zone of taiga, rather sharply turning into steppes. Due to the very harsh climate, deciduous forests occupy small areas here. The eastern sector is under the influence of the monsoons. Precipitation here varies from 2000 mm on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean to 500-1000 mm inland. It has warm summers +16 - +24 °C and cool, but also relatively warm snowy winters with temperatures from 0 to -16 °C. The north of the sector is occupied by boreal (northern) forests or taiga, the south by mixed and broad-leaved forests.
The subtropical climate zone is located in the northern part of Mexico and the southern part of the United States. On this mainland, it occupies a very large area, however, for the same reasons - due to the large length from west to east, not all of its areas are favorable for living. The belt can also be divided into three sectors. The western one stretches in a thin strip along the Pacific coast - in the foothills of the Cordilleras. There are natural zones of mixed forests (in the north) and hard-leaved evergreen forests and shrubs (in the south). Here there is a hot summer with average temperatures from +16 to +24 ° C and a cool winter of +8 - 0 ° C. Precipitation falls from 500 to 2000 mm, their amount grows from south to north. The central or continental sector is characterized by unfavorable climatic conditions. Large areas of the sector are occupied by the Cordillera, deserts are formed on the plains. Dry continental air masses dominate here, with little precipitation - from 100 to 500 mm per year. The air temperature ranges from +32 - +16°C in summer to +8 -8°C in winter. For the central subtropics of the United States and Mexico, a pressing problem today is the growth of deserts and the drying up of the climate. When moving to the east, the deserts turn into steppes and forest-steppes. The eastern sector is under the influence of the monsoons. Precipitation here is very much more than 1000-2000 mm per year, in some places this causes swamping of the area. The humid climate favors the growth of variable wet forests. Here there is a hot summer (+32 °C and above) and a warm winter with temperatures from 0 to +24 °C (in Florida).
Tropical climate is typical for most of Central America. It distinguishes three sectors according to the distribution of precipitation on its territory. The western sector (Pacific coast of southern Mexico) is occupied by variable rainforests. Precipitation falls on the windward slopes of the Cordillera, their amount reaches 2000 mm per year. The central sector is occupied by savannas and deserts. Being under the influence of continental tropical air masses, it lacks the amount of precipitation, which is also delayed by the slopes of the Cordillera. The temperatures here are somewhat lower due to the high altitude of the area above sea level. In summer from +16 to +32 °C (depending on altitude), in winter - from +8 to +24°C, respectively. Precipitation falls from 500 to 250 mm or less.
The subequatorial belt of North America occupies a very small area in the very south of the continent, located on the Isthmus of Panama. The belt is occupied by a natural zone of variable humid forests, as well as savannahs and light forests in the west. Here, the weather is constantly hot both in summer and in winter, with temperatures above +20 ° C, the maximum precipitation occurs in summer. Precipitation here falls 2000-3000 mm per year or more.
There are quite a lot of rivers and lakes in North America: the
Mississippi with a tributary of the Missouri, and the largest
accumulation of fresh water is located in the Great American Lakes
region. The territory of the continent is irrigated unevenly due to both
climatic and orographic features. A huge water system is formed by the
Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River, which connects them to the
The rivers of North America belong to the basins of the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic oceans; some of them have an internal drain. Most flow into the Atlantic Ocean.
Most of the rivers of North America are of great transport and hydropower importance.
In different parts of the mainland there are different types of water systems with different river regimes. They depend on the climate and orographic conditions.
Big Bear Lake
Great Slave Lake
Great Salt Lake
Animal world. The fauna of the larger, extratropical part of the
continent has a significant similarity with the fauna of similar parts
of Eurasia, which was a consequence of the existence of land connections
between the continents and makes it possible to combine these
territories into one large zoogeographic region of the Holarctic. Along
with this, some specific features of the fauna give reason to consider
the North American part as an independent Nearctic region and contrast
it with the Palearctic region of Eurasia. Characteristic animals of the
tundra zone: reindeer (caribou), polar bear, arctic fox, lemming, polar
hare, polar owl, polar partridge. Musk ox is found only in the north of
the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Greenland. The most typical
representatives of the taiga are: beaver, American sable, wapiti, brown
bear, Canadian lynx, tree porcupine, wolverine, muskrat, ilka marten,
red squirrel, large flying squirrel. The number of animals, especially
fur-bearing ones, has declined sharply.
The fauna of mixed and broad-leaved forests suffered even more, including a number of original species (for example, virginian deer, skunk, gray fox, star-bearer, red lynx, gray squirrel, fork-tailed harrier, wild turkey). Hamsters, shrews, woodchucks are more common. In the subtropics, in the southeast of the mainland, along with animals common with the subzone of deciduous forests, there are representatives of the tropical fauna - alligator, alligator turtles, ibis, flamingos, pelicans, hummingbirds, Carolina parrot. Animals of the steppes and forest-steppes are heavily exterminated: the bison (preserved only in reserves), the pronghorn antelope, the long-eared mazama deer (preserved in the mountains), the coyote wolf, the prairie fox; rodents are much more numerous: ground squirrels, prairie dogs, steppe polecats, badger, pouched rat, and birds: earthen owl, prairie grouse and others. The mountain-forest landscapes of the Cordillera are characterized by a big-horned sheep, a grizzly bear, a bighorn goat. On the desert-steppe plateaus, reptiles are numerous, including poisonous rattlesnakes and gila-tooth lizards, frinosoma lizards, wall boas and some others. In Central America, the West Indies, and partly in the south of the Mexican Highlands, tropical animals predominate, including South American ones - pangolins, armadillos, monkeys, bats, hummingbirds, parrots, turtles, crocodiles and others.