North America

From ArticleWorld

North America is a continent located in the northwestern hemisphere covering an area of 9,355,255 mi² (24,230,000 km²), making it the third largest continent in area and covers 16.5% of Earth's land. The population is 454,225,000, making it the fourth most populated continent. To the north it is bordered by the Arctic Ocean, to the east is the Atlantic Ocean, to the south is the Caribbean Sea, and to the west is the Pacific Ocean. North America is named after the Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, who claimed the Americas were not the East Indies, but instead the undiscovered New World. The continents only land connection is the Isthmus of Panama, which connects to South America.



North America is divided into four different regions: the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains in the west, the Canadian Shield, and Appalachian Mountains in the east. The highest point in North America is Mount McKinley, or Denali, at 20,320 ft (6,194m) and is located in the Alaska Range. The lowest point is in Death Valley, California at 282 ft (86m). The geographic center of North America is Rugby, North Dakota.


North America has a very diverse climate, but there are five principle regions that can be identified. Alaska, northern Canada, and Greenland have arctic and subarctic climates and have long extremely cold winters and short mild summers. This area is covered in snow and ice most of the year. Southern Canada and the eastern United States is defined by a humid climate with frequent weather changes. Northern Mexico and central United States is mountain and desert territory, neither of which receive much precipitation. The fourth main climate region runs along the Pacific Ocean from Alaska to southern California. This region has mild, wet winters and rainless summers. Southern Mexico consists of a tropical climate featuring warm temperatures year-round and considerable precipitation.


The three largest and most highly populated countries in North America are: Canada, Mexico, and the United States. There are many islands off the North American shore belonging to Canada, such as Victoria Island and Vancouver Island. Mexico also have many small islands on its coastline. The United States is comprised of the 48 contiguous states, Hawaii, and Alaska. The Aleutian Islands, located just south of Alaska, also belong to the United States.

Located at the southern end of North America, just south of the United States, is Central America. While Mexico is the largest country in Central America, others include the English speaking country of Belize, the densely populated El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, the politically stable Costa Rica, Guatemala, and at the very south end, Panama.

Located at the southeastern end of North America is a chain of islands: the Antilles, the West Indies, and the Caribbean. Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago are part of the Lesser Antilles, while Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica are part of the Greater Antilles. The Bahamas is an archipelago chain of approximately 700 islands in the West Indies.

North America has dependencies in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Pierre and Miquelon are all part of the overseas department of France. Monserrat, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Anguilla, and Bermuda are all a British dependency. Nevassa Island, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico are territories of the United States and Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles are a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Finally, Greenland, the largest island in the world, is a dependency of Denmark.


As of 2005, the population of the United States was 295,734,130, Mexico was 106,202,900, Canada was 32,805,041, and Greenland was 56,375. The majority of the North American population is in the eastern half of the United States, the U.S. Pacific coast, parts of Ontario and Quebec, and central Mexico. Around 75% of the population in North America is described as urban. The largest cities in Mexico are Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterey; Los Angeles, Houston, New York City, San Diego, and Chicago in the United States, and Montreal, Vancoucer, Ottawa, and Toronto in Canada.

Outside of the metropolitan areas, North America’s population density is not that high. In the United States the population density is 83.7 people per square mile (32.3 per sq km), in Mexico,143 persons per sq mi (55.2 persons per sq km), and in Canada 9.3 per sq mi (3.6 per sq km).