4a. Describe the physiographic regions of North America
The Appalachian Highlands separate the Atlantic Coastal Plain and the Interior Plains, including the Great Plains and the Central Lowlands. The Rocky Mountains separate the Interior Plains and the Intermontane Plateaus, including the Basin and Range Province. The Pacific Mountains are the western border of the Intermontane Plateaus and North America. The west coast of North America lacks a coastal plain because it is an active tectonic plate boundary. The west coast is characterized by earthquakes and volcanic activity, whereas the east coast is not. The Atlantic Coastal Plain is in the interior of the North American Plate, about 2,000 miles from its eastern edge. The northern portion of North America is dominated by the Canadian Shield. During the Ice Age, continental glaciation removed the soil from this area and deposited it in southern Canada and the northern United States leaving the bedrock known as the Canadian Shield exposed.
In North America, temperatures generally get warmer from north to south. Recall that the Earth is a sphere so places closer to the Equator receive more direct sunlight than places that are farther away. In the United States, precipitation generally decreases from east to west. The Pacific Mountains create a rain shadow effect that limits precipitation in much of the western half of the United States, including eastern Washington and Oregon, the Great Plains, and the Desert Southwest. The east coast lacks a coastal mountain range that would prevent moisture-laden air from reaching the interior.
Britain, France, and Spain all altered the physical and cultural landscape of North America. It is estimated that the colonists reduced the indigenous populations of North America by 80 to 90% initially through the spread of disease and eventually violence as the colonists sought to seize land. The colonists arrived from different directions, dominating parts of North America accordingly.
The evidence of European colonialism exists today in the languages spoken, the names of places, and patterns of land use. In the case of Canada, it is also part of the British Commonwealth.
Review Introducing the Region.
The population of North America is predominantly urban with vast expanses of sparsely populated land. The urban areas are generally coastal or along rivers and lakes. As populations increased on the east coast of North America, it became increasingly necessary to support that growth with agricultural production and natural resources. Thus, the urban areas in the interior of North America, such as Winnipeg and Denver, typically are gateways to these activities. Other interior cities grew up along the transcontinental railways of Canada and the United States including, for example, Saskatoon and Omaha.
The population of the U.S. has been more mobile than that of Canada. It is estimated that U.S. residents move once every seven years whereas Canadians move, on average, only about once every fifteen years. Initially, U.S. mobility was in the form of the rural-to-urban shift. More recently, the shift has been from urban to suburban locations. In both Canada and the United States, there has been a westward movement as people leave the densely populated core regions for job opportunities, a lower cost of living, and a more relaxed lifestyle.
Review Introducing the Realm, the section titled Population Distribution in North America.
The United States acquired territory through treaties, purchase, annexation, and outright seizure.
The boundaries resulting from these territorial acquisitions were often irregular because they followed the physical landscape. The Mississippi River, for example, provides the border for numerous states. Because features like these change over time, state boundaries change, too.
Both groups followed primarily westward paths, although those migrating from the Mid-Atlantic culture hearth deviated from that because of the terrain.
Evidence of these migration patterns is seen today. Families in western New York on the Erie lakeshore can, for example, trace their ancestry to places like Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Three events contributed to westward migration beyond the Missouri River.
The climatic conditions and terrain, among other factors, make the interior of the United States a relatively harsh environment for many to live.
The pattern of urban growth often follows a radial pattern with transportation routes radiating from the original center of what was a walking city.
The original city centers of the New England and Mid-Atlantic culture hearths, such as Boston and Philadelphia, are now connected by edge cities, suburbs, highways, and railways to form a densely populated corridor known as the Northeast megalopolis.
Review United States: Early Development and Globalization, the section titled Industrial Development and Urbanization.
Although the United States engages in all four categories of economic activity, it is the increase in the tertiary and quaternary activities and the decrease in the primary and secondary activities that characterize it as a post-industrial economy. In 2010, about 77% of the GDP in the U.S. was in the service sector (tertiary and quaternary activities), whereas industry (a secondary activity) accounted for about 22% and agriculture (a primary activity) accounted for about 1%. That trend continues with an even higher percentage of tertiary and quaternary activities accounting for the total GDP.
The trend toward services and information and away from primary and secondary activities facilitates the ability of the United States to influence the economic and cultural landscapes of other countries. Brands from U.S. companies are now found all over the world. Media outlets carry advertisements for goods and services from these countries and the language to communicate their availability is in English. Although people from some countries around the world appreciate this increased access, others believe it threatens their identities.
Review United States: Early Development and Globalization, the sections titled Economic Changes and Americanism and Globalization.
Although it is possible to achieve financial success through hard work regardless of background in other countries, many people around the world associate it with the United States.
Unfortunately, achieving the American Dream even in the United States, is not always possible for many of the same reasons it is not in the countries migrants leave.
When immigrants arrive, they seek to blend in to avoid bringing attention to their differences. Some go so far as to abandon their traditions. Others seek to balance their cultural heritage with the practices of their new country.
There is, however, concern that as more cultures are added to the melting pot the more diluted they will become. Instead of many cultures, there will be one global culture.
The United States continues to be more racially and ethnically diverse due primarily to immigration. It is also important to note that these groups are aging at different rates depending on fertility, mortality, and immigration within these groups.
Many immigrants support their families in their countries of origin by sending them remittances. These are portions of the immigrants' paychecks that, in many cases, provide necessities like food and shelter.
The pattern of religious affiliations in the United States originally followed the pattern of settlement, Puritans in the New England culture hearth and Anglicans in the Mid-Atlantic culture hearth. Subsequent immigration has changed that pattern.
Although there are distinct patterns in the distribution of major religious affiliations in the United States, there has always been an underlying diversity. There are, for example, numerous branches of these religions.
Geographers use the term ecumene to mean inhabited zone, the land where humans have settled. In Canada, that zone is primarily near the border with the United States. The climate, terrain, and proximity to its chief trading partner define Canada's ecumene.
Canada's geology and northern location limit the locations where agriculture is possible and human habitation desirable. Thus, most agricultural activity and human settlements are found in the southern parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, to the west of the Canadian Shield, and Ontario and Quebec, to the east of the Canadian Shield. Access to the United States for trade purposes also draws settlement to the southern part of Canada. Toronto, Canada's largest city, and Ottawa, its capital, are both located near the border with the United States.
French and British colonialism explains the English-speaking and French-speaking regions in Canada.
Although the French influence remains strong in Quebec, the British colonial influence is stronger throughout Canada.
The majority of Quebec's citizens consider themselves more French than Canadian.
Although they are in the minority, the Cree of northern Quebec have considerable influence because that is where the hydroelectric dams and the natural resources the Francophones depend on are located. They, along with other non-Francophones, would not join the rest of Quebec should it secede.
Review on Physical Geography of Canada.
The European settlement of North America partly explains the growth of the east coasts of Canada and the United States. The Northeast Megalopolis of the United States and the Quebec City - Windsor, Ontario Corridor represent the economic cores of both countries. In both cases, suburban growth and the development of edge cities away from those cores has been substantial. In the case of the United States, however, the population of that area has been declining in its Northeast Core, particularly in the Rust Belt cities.
The Mountain West and American Southwest have experienced the most growth in the United States since 2000. Las Vegas, Denver, and Salt Lake City are popular destinations for people leaving the Northeast Core. In Canada, British Columbia's Vancouver continues to grow although much of that growth is on the periphery. As the most densely populated city in Canada, it is very expensive to live there. The same phenomenon is occurring around Toronto, Canada's largest city and a key link in the Quebec City - Windsor, Ontario Corridor. Elsewhere in Canada, growth is occurring in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and the Prairie cities of Saskatoon, Calgary, and Edmonton.
The Mountain West includes arid states that have attracted extraordinary population growth. Cities in this region, including Las Vegas and Phoenix, rely on the Colorado River for their water. To provide ready access to water for the growth of these cities and farmland irrigation, the U.S. government built the Hoover Dam, creating a reservoir, Lake Mead, on the Colorado River.
People seeking job opportunities in the growing tertiary sector, a lower cost of living, and a more favorable climate have caused the increase in the growth of Mountain West cities like Las Vegas. Water resources have not, however, increased. Drought conditions have exacerbated the drop in Lake Mead water levels, requiring Las Vegas residents to reduce their per capita water usage.
Review the Mountain West section in Regions of the United States and Canada.
This vocabulary list includes terms that students need to know to successfully complete the final exam for the course.