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The United States of America is a federal republic of 50 states
and the District of Columbia.
Forty-eight of the states occupy
most of the southern half of the
North American continent,
bounded by Canada in the north,
mostly along the 49th parallel and
the Great Lakes, and Mexico in the
South, partly along the Rio Grande,
and lying between the Atlantic (E), the
Gulf of Mexico (SE) and the Pacific (W).
The 49th and the largest state is Alaska which
lies north-west of Canada and is separated from
Russia by the Bering Strait. The 50th state is Hawaii, a group of four major islands and four smaller ones in the mid-Pacific.

The country covers a total area, including inland water, of 9.37 million square kilometers making it the fourth largest country in the world (after Russia, Canada and China). The USA also administers more than 2,000 islands, islets, atolls and cays in the Pacific and the Caribbean, and currently, the Panama Canal Zone.

The USA is a country of great mountain ranges, vast plains and long rivers. Its highest point is Mount McKinley in Alaska 6,187 meters and its lowest is in Death Valley, California (90m below sea level). The area may be divided into seven physical regions:

Because of its great extent and varied topography, climate conditions in the USA vary enormously. In general, however, the climate is severe in winter, except in the south, the San Francisco area and Hawaii, and tropical or subtropical in summer, except in the extreme north-east, along the Pacific Coast as far as San Francisco, and in Alaska.

New England: winters are very cold, especially in the northern states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Heavy snowfalls are usual and temperatures drop to 18C from mid December to late February. Summers are usually comfortable, with afternoon temperatures averaging 27C in July, and hot, humid days are rare.

New York and middle Atlantic states: the region has a continental climate of cold winters and hot summers in the north, and mild winters and hotter summers in the south. Northern New York often has heavy snow in winter. New York City's average minimum temperature in January and February is -4C, its maximum July temperature, averages 28C, with high humidity.

The Midwest: the climate is continental, with cold winters and hot summers. Rainfall averages 635mm to 890mm a year.

The South: The climate is humid and subtropical with annual rainfall between 1,125mm and 1,525mm. Florida has many thunderstorms during the summer months and hurricanes and tornadoes of varying severity occur between July and October. Further north in the mountains, temperatures are lower and Kentucky has short cold winters with some snow.

The South West: the climate varies from subtropical on the coast to dry continental inland. Rainfall is generally light. Average minimum temperature in January in Dallas, Texas is 20C and average maximum July temperature is 35C.

The Mountain States: the climate of the whole region is dry continental, with cold winters and hot summers, temperatures decreasing as one moves farther north. Rainfall is under 25mm a year in the Arizona desert and is rarely more than 250mm a year except in Wyoming. Wyoming and Montana experience heavy snow in winter. The average January minimum in Las Vegas, Nevada, is 0.6C, with average July maximum of 41C

The West Coast: the region has a very varied climate. In Oregon and Washington west of the Cascades, it is temperate with annual rainfall over 1,775mm. East of the Cascades, it is dry continental, with 250-500mm of rainfall annually. Northern California is cool, wet and often foggy whilst southern California has a Mediterranean climate with abundant sunshine, summer drought, and rainfall chiefly in winter.

Alaska: the arctic region is polar in climate, with long cold winters and short cool summers. However, the southern coastal (and inhabited) areas seldom get zero (Centigrade) weather; average winter temperature at Anchorage is 1.5C and in Juneau 4.5C. Inland, the temperatures falls below zero for short periods. Fairbanks regularly has extremely low winter temperatures but can be very hot in summer. Summer temperatures (from mid-May to September) range from 13-22C.

Hawaii: although located in the tropics, the Trade Winds keep the island's climate pleasantly cool for most of the year. August and September are the hottest months, with average temperatures of 26C (average maximum 12C); the coldest month is February when the average temperature drops to 22C (average minimum 12C). Rain showers are liable to occur at all times, but are most frequent between December and April during which heavy rain can be dangerous, but an early warning system blankets the islands.

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