US Geography and Environment
The United States is situated almost entirely in the Western Hemisphere: the contiguous United States stretches from the Pacific Ocean on the west to the Atlantic Ocean on the east, with the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast; it is bordered by Canada on the north and Mexico on the south. Alaska is the largest state in area; separated from the contiguous United States by Canada, it touches the Pacific on the south and the Arctic Ocean on the north. Hawaii occupies an archipelago in the central Pacific, southwest of North America. After Russia and Canada, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest nation by total area, ranking just above or below China. The ranking varies depending on how two territories disputed by China and India are counted and how the total size of the United States is calculated: the CIA World Factbook gives 3,794,083Â sqÂ mi (9,826,630Â km2), the United Nations Statistics Division gives 3,717,813Â sqÂ mi (9,629,091Â km2), and the Encyclopedia Britannica gives 3,676,486Â sqÂ mi (9,522,055Â km2). Including only land area, the United States is third in size behind Russia and China, just ahead of Canada. The United States also possesses several insular territories scattered around the West Indies (e.g., the commonwealth of Puerto Rico) and the Pacific (e.g., Guam).
The coastal plain of the Atlantic seaboard gives way further inland to deciduous forests and the rolling hills of the Piedmont. The Appalachian Mountains divide the eastern seaboard from the Great Lakes and the grasslands of the Midwest. The Mississippiâ€“Missouri River, the world's fourth longest river system, runs mainly northâ€“south through the heart of the country. The flat, fertile prairie of the Great Plains stretches to the west, interrupted by a highland region in the southeast. The Rocky Mountains, at the western edge of the Great Plains, extend north to south across the country, reaching altitudes higher than 14,000Â feet (4,300Â m) in Colorado. Farther west are the rocky Great Basin and deserts such as the Mojave. The Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges run close to the Pacific coast. At 20,320Â feet (6,194Â m), Alaska's Mount McKinley is the country's tallest peak. Active volcanoes are common throughout Alaska's Alexander and Aleutian Islands, and Hawaii consists of volcanic islands. The supervolcano underlying Yellowstone National Park in the Rockies is the continent's largest volcanic feature.
The United States, with its large size and geographic variety, includes most climate types. To the east of the 100th meridian, the climate ranges from humid continental in the north to humid subtropical in the south. The southern tip of Florida is tropical, as is Hawaii. The Great Plains west of the 100th meridian are semi-arid. Much of the Western mountains are alpine. The climate is arid in the Great Basin, desert in the Southwest, Mediterranean in coastal California, and oceanic in coastal Oregon and Washington and southern Alaska. Most of Alaska is subarctic or polar. Extreme weather is not uncommonâ€”the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico are prone to hurricanes, and most of the world's tornadoes occur within the country, mainly in the Midwest's Tornado Alley.
The U.S. ecology is very diverse: about 17,000 species of vascular plants occur in the contiguous United States and Alaska, and over 1,800 species of flowering plants are found in Hawaii, few of which occur on the mainland. The United States is home to more than 400 mammal, 750 bird, and 500 reptile and amphibian species. About 91,000 insect species have been described. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 protects threatened and endangered species and their habitats, which are monitored by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. There are fifty-eight national parks and hundreds of other federally managed parks, forests, and wilderness areas. Altogether, the government regulates 28.8% of the country's land area. Most of this is protected, though some is leased for oil and gas drilling, mining, or cattle ranching.
ESTA Travel Registration for United States of America
As of 12th January 2009 everyone wanting to travel to United States of America from the 26 countries that do not require a Visa at the moment will have to complete an online US Travel Registration ESTA form up to 3 days before the trip. This will help travelers register for 2 years for entry into the US for holidays. If you are traveling from any of these countries to United States of America you will need to complete the online ESTA form.
The current countries covered by the ESTA Via Waiver Program are:
Anybody traveling to United States of America are asked to Register 3 days in advance to travel. The form can be completed online and is called â€œElectronic System for Travel Authorisationâ€, or ESTA. You can complete you application here: ESTA Application Page ESTA has been designed to allow for the accommodation of last minute and emergency travellers and you will no longer have to fill out a green Visa Waiver form on the Aircraft. The ESTA form requires your flight details - so if you are planning to travel to United States of America ensure you have booked your flight and have the flight details before you complete the ESTA form.
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