Chad

Area 495,752 square mi (1,284,000 square km) Population 13.21 million (2014) Capital N’Djamena Highest Point 11,204 ft (3,415 m) Lowest Point 525 ft (160 m) GDP $13.92 billion (2014) Primary Natural Resources petroleum, uranium, fish. THE REPUBLIC OF CHAD is a LANDLOCKED country located in north-central Africa. It is bounded by LIBYA, NIGER, NIGERIA, CAMEROON, […]

central business district

A CENTRAL BUSINESS District (CBD) is the nucleus or downtown of an urban area that contains the main concentration of commercial land use, with the highest percentage of retail shops, offices, and services such as banking and finance. Large cities are characterized by distinct retail sub-areas that have their own “walking district.” Some specialized clusters […]

Central America Free Trade Agreement

THE CENTRAL America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) is a treaty between the UNITED STATES and the countries of Central America (HONDURAS, GUATEMALA, EL SALVADOR, NICARAGUA and COSTA RICA)—what the Russians refer to as the “near abroad.” This is a parallel to the earlier NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). The objective is a free-trade association […]

Central African Republic

Area 240,535 square mi (622,984 square km) Population 4.709 million (2014) Capital Banqui Highest Point 4,658 ft (1,420 m) Lowest Point 1,099 ft (335 m) GDP $1.783 billion (2014) Primary Natural Resources diamonds, uranium, gold. DEEP IN THE HEART of the African continent, the LANDLOCKED Central African Republic is on a heavily forested plateau about […]

Cayman Islands

THE CAYMAN Islands are one of the UNITED KINGDOM few remaining colonies in the CARIBBEAN SEA. The group, lying roughly 150 mi (250 km) northwest of JAMAICA, consists of three main islands, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac. They were first named Las Tortugas by Christopher Columbus in 1503 because of the abundance of […]

Caucasus Mountains

Caucasus Mountains

THE CAUCASUS MOUNTAINS are the highest mountain range in Europe, but lie at the very eastern extremity of what geographers consider to be Europe. In fact, the dividing line traditionally used to divide Europe from Asia runs directly through the center of the range. Forming both a barrier and a connector for civilizations between the […]

Catholic Church

SINCE THE BEGINNING OF Christianity, the extension and growth of the Catholic Church were a means to explore, map, and discover the world. Explorations were the first step in establishing missions in foreign lands, the cause of great travels around the globe. The Acts of the Apostles, and also ancient and medieval legends, tell about […]

Caspian Sea

THE CASPIAN SEA IS ONE of the world’s largest bodies of water, situated in a depression between RUSSIA, KAZAKHSTAN, TURKMENISTAN, IRAN, and AZERBAIJAN. It is unique among the world’s inland seas in that it is completely isolated from the rest of the global ocean and has a distinctive continental climate which gives the area extremes […]

cartography

A TERM DERIVED from the word for chart (charte) or drawing, cartography is traditionally defined as the art and science of making maps. But over the years, a great deal of theoretical and practical research has been done in all aspects of the subject, including work on map projections, map designs, map visualization, cartograms, terrain models, and the incorporation of new computer-based […]

cartogram

ONE OF THE LIMITATIONS of the traditional paper map is that real world areas with large populations are usually small in physical size and therefore represented as small area units on a map. As such, traditional paper maps have tended to mask geographic patterns in small area units that are of importance and interest on the map. The […]

Caribbean Sea

THE CARIBBEAN SEA is a suboceanic BASIN in the western ATLANTIC OCEAN. The sea covers just over 1 million square miles (2.6 million square km) and contains numerous islands. The islands, which vary greatly in size, cover some 91,000 square mi (235,688 square km). CUBA is by far the largest at 44,000 square mi (113,959 […]

capitals

A CAPITAL IS A CITY or town that serves as the administrative center of a political unit such as a country, state, or province. The word capital is ultimately derived from the Latin word for “head” (caput). Capitals of counties in the UNITED STATES are generally known as “county seats”; in England and IRELAND such […]

Cape Verde

Area 1,557 square mi (4,033 square km) Population 503,600 2014 Capital Praia Highest Point Mt. Fogo 9,281 ft (2,829 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $1.871 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources salt, basalt, limestone, kaolin, fish. CAPE VERDE IS a volcanically produced archipelago, consisting of 10 major islands and five islets in the ATLANTIC OCEAN, […]

canyon

A CANYON IS A deep, narrow passage cut through the surface of the Earth with steep cliffs on both sides. Sometimes called a gorge or ravine, canyons are often formed in mountainous, arid, or semiarid regions where riparian EROSION is much greater than erosion from general weathering. They range in size from an arroyo, or […]

Canary Islands

THE CANARY ISLANDS lie just 93 mi (150 km) off the northwest coast of Africa in the ATLANTIC OCEAN but have been politically and culturally attached to SPAIN, 830 mi (1,350 km) to the northeast, since the 14th century. Today the seven islands, an autonomous region of Spain, are among the most popular holiday destinations […]

Canadian Shield

THE CANADIAN or Laurentian Shield, the largest natural region of North America at 1.1 million square mi (3 million square km), is located north of the St. Lawrence Lowland and east of the Interior Plains. It is composed of igneous and metamorphic rock of Precambrian origin, some of the oldest rock on Earth. More than […]

Canada

Area 3,850,000 square mi (9,984,670 square km) Capital Ottawa Population 35.54 million 2014 Highest Point 19,550 ft (5,959 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $1.787 trillion 2014 Primary Natural Resources iron ore, nickel, zinc, copper, gold. CANADA ENCOMPASSES the second-largest land area of any country after RUSSIA. Like its southern neighbor, the UNITED STATES, Canada’s […]

Cameroon

Area 183,569 square mi (475,440 square km) Population 22.82 million (2014) Capital Yaoundé Highest Point 13,435 ft (4,095 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $32.55 billion (2014) Primary Natural Resources petroleum, bauxite, iron ore, timber CAMEROON IS A triangle-shaped nation slightly larger than CALIFORNIA. It is wedged between NIGERIA and EQUATORIAL GUINEA on Africa’s west-central […]

Cambodia

Area 69,884 square mi (181,040 square km) Population 15.41 million 2014 Capital Phnom Penh Highest Point 5,938 ft (1,810 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $16.71 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources timber, gemstones, hydropower potential. BORDERED BY VIETNAM, LAOS, and THAILAND, Cambodia, with a near circular shape, is a perfect example of a compact country. […]

California

THE MOST POPULOUS state in the UNITED STATES, California also has the richest and most urbanized citizenry. It is the third largest state, famous for its climate, unique industries, agriculture, geographic variety, and lifestyles. California covers 158,706 square mi (411,049 square km), is 252 mi (406 km) at its widest point, and is 824 mi […]

Burundi

Area 10,759 square mi (27,830 square km) Population 10.48 million 2014 Capital Bujumbura Highest Point 8,760 ft (2,670 m) Lowest Point 2,539 ft (772 m) GDP $3.094 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources coffee, tea, cotton, minerals. BURUNDI IS A landlocked country in eastern Africa. It has borders with the Democratic Republic of the CONGO, RWANDA, […]

Burkina Faso

Area 105,840 square mi (274,200 square km) Population 17.42 million 2014 Capital Ougadougou Highest Point 2,457 ft (749 m) Lowest Point 656 ft (200 m) GDP $12.54 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources manganese, limestone. A LANDLOCKED republic located in West Africa, bordering GHANA, CÔTE D’IVOIRE, and TOGO to the south, BENIN to the southeast, NIGER […]

Bulgaria

Area 42,900 square mi (111,910 square km) Population 7.226 million 2014 Capital Sofia Highest Point 9,596 ft (2,925 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $55.73 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources bauxite, coal, copper, lead, timber. BULGARIA IS ONE OF 10 countries in the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. The peninsula is a mountainous region with […]

Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES IS the largest city in ARGENTINA, and as part of a federal district, it serves as the country’s capital. The city’s name means “good airs” and derives from the name of a patron saint of navigators known as Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Aire. Measuring 77 square mi (199 square km), the […]

Brunei

Area 2,055 square mi (5,770 square km) Population 423,200 2014 Capital Bandar Seri Begawan Highest Point Bukit Pagon 6,105 ft (1,850 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $17.26 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources petroleum, natural gas. THE SULTANATE of Brunei is one of the world’s smallest countries, but also one of the world’s richest. A […]

British Indian Ocean Territory

THE BRITISH Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) is an archipelago in the INDIAN OCEAN, south of INDIA, about one-half of the way from Africa to INDONESIA. On November 8, 1965, the British government created the (BIOT). The BIOT consisted of the Chagos Archipelago, excised from the British Crown Colony of Mauritius; and the Aldabra and Farquhar […]

British Empire

IN THE 15th and 16th centuries, English trading ships were already sailing to JAPAN via Africa, INDIA, and CHINA, but there was no English sovereignty in these places. The term empire then designated the association between England, Scotland, IRELAND, and Wales. During the 17th and 18th centuries, a network of territories stretching from America to […]

British East India

IT CAN BE ARGUED that Portuguese, Dutch, and French merchants exploited India; Britain remade the subcontinent. British East India grew from a series of coastal trading posts to encompass the part of the Indian subcontinent taken by the current states of INDIA, BANGLADESH, and PAKISTAN. The subcontinent’s southern peninsula extends to the HIMALAYAS mountains that […]

Brazil

Area 3,286,488 square mi (8,511,965 square km) Population 202.0 million 2014 Capital Brasilia Highest Point 9,888 ft (3,014 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $2.346 trillion 2014 Primary Natural Resources bauxite, gold, iron ore, uranium, petroleum. BRAZIL IS THE LARGEST and most populous country in South America. The country occupies almost half of the continent. […]

Bouvet Island

BOUVET ISLAND, a territory of NORWAY, is known as one of the peri-Antarctic islands, small uninhabited rocks and volcanic islands that circle the frozen continent. It was discovered by Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier, a lieutenant in the French East Indies Company, on New Year’s Day, 1739, but not found again until nearly a century […]

boundaries, political

POLITICAL BOUNDARIES are frequently defined as borders constructed and imposed on or around a geographic territory in order to distinguish between areas of governance or types (strategies) of political control. They function both as a tool for managing a group of peoples and as a way of minimizing conflict and organizing efficient political units. Political boundaries […]

boundaries, natural

GOVERNMENTS USE physical features as boundaries of political units: boundaries of countries, states, counties, cities, and so forth. (Not all political boundaries follow natural features. A boundary can be geometric, meaning it is be composed of straight-line segments and arcs. There is a cultural type of boundary, as well. This boundary usually separates different ethnic […]

Botswana

Area 231,803 square mi (600,370 square km) Population 2.039 million (2014) Capital Gaborone Highest Point 4,890 ft (1,491 m) Lowest Point 1,682 ft (513 m) GDP $15.81 billion (2014) Primary Natural Resources diamonds, copper, silver. BOTSWANA IS a LANDLOCKED country in southern Africa, approximately 310 mi (500 km) from the nearest coastline to the southwest. […]

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Area 19,940 square mi (51,129 square km) Population 3.825 million 2014 Capital Sarajevo Highest Point Maglic 7,826 ft (2,386 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $18.34 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources coal, iron, bauxite, zinc, hydropower. BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA was one of the component states of the former federation of Yugoslavia until it declared its […]

Borneo

THE ISLAND OF BORNEO is the largest island of the Malay archipelago and the third-largest island in the world (after GREENLAND and PAPUA-NEW GUINEA), covering 287,420 square mi (736,974 square km). It is also one of the least explored places on Earth and retains much of the mystery for today’s tourists that it did for […]

Bordeaux

BORDEAUX IS THE eighth-largest city in FRANCE, and the capital of the historic southwestern province of Aquitaine. Bordeaux is also considered the wine capital of the world, and has been famous for its viticulture since the days of the Roman Empire. Unlike other major French cities, Bordeaux is not known for its energetic lifestyle or […]

Bolivia

Area 424,164 square mi (1,098,580 square km) Population 10.85 million 2014 Capital La Paz Highest Point 21,463 ft (6,542 m) Lowest Point 295 ft (90 m) GDP $34.18 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources tin, natural gas, petroleum, zinc. BOLIVIA IS A COMPLEX and fascinating country. Located in the center of South America, it shares borders […]

Bokkara

BOKKARA (ALSO BUKHARA) is a city that lies on the SILK ROAD of Central Asia in the Asian republic of UZBEKISTAN. Its name, bestowed by its Sogdian occupiers in the 3rd century B.C.E., derives from the Sanskrit word vikhara, meaning “monastery.” Bokkara lies in the ARAL SEA basin and was founded some 3,000 years ago […]

Black Sea

THE BLACK SEA IS a body of salt water that stretches 630 mi (1,014 km) from east to west. TURKEY faces its southern shore, BULGARIA and ROMANIA lie west of the Black Sea, and UKRAINE, RUSSIA, and GEORGIA border it to the north, northeast, and east, respectively. The Black Sea stretches 330 mi (530 km) […]

Biosphere

THE ENVIRONMENT of the Earth can be broadly divided into four major systems: the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere. Russian scientist Vladimir Vernadsky coined the term biosphere in 1929. The term refers to the life zone of Earth that includes the air, land, and water occupied by all organisms including humans. This life zone distinguishes […]

bioreserve

BIORESERVES, also known as BIOSPHERE reserves, are an internationally recognized type of conservation reserve. In 1970, the 16th General Conference of UNESCO (part of the United Nations), acting on the recommendations of the conference, launched the long-term intergovernmental and interdisciplinary program known as Man and the Biosphere (MAB). Crucial for the program was a project […]

Biome

A BIOME IS A classification of large areas of plant formations. The world’s vegetation communities can be described in many ways depending on scale and controlling factors. The early plant geographers, notably F. E. Clements and V. E. Shelford, working in the UNITED KINGDOM and the UNITED STATES in the early 20th century, defined and […]

Bight of Benin

A “BIGHT” REFERS TO a bend or curve, most often a crescent shape, that forms an open bay in a coastline. The Bight of Benin is a roughly 500-mi- (800-km-) long bend in the West African coast, stretching from near the mouth of the Volta River (Cape Saint Paul) in GHANA eastward across the coastlines […]

Bhutan

Area 29,204 square mi (47,000 square km) Population 765,600 2014 Capital Thimphu Highest Point 24,780 ft (7,553 m) Lowest Point 318 ft (97 m) GDP $1.821 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources hydropower. BHUTAN IS A LANDLOCKED country located in the eastern part of the HIMALAYAN MOUNTAINS, bordered by INDIA in the south, east, and west […]

Bermuda

BERMUDA IS A UNITED KINGDOM overseas territory located 700 miles southeast of NEW YORK CITY in the North ATLANTIC OCEAN. With an area of 36.2 square mi (53.3 square km), the island colony has a population of 64,482 (2003). Bermuda is a primary tourism destination for East Coast Americans, and its capital, Hamilton, serves as […]

Benin

Area 43,483 square mi (112,620 square km) Population 10.60 million 2014 Capital Porto-Novo Highest Point 2,158 ft (658 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $8.747 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources oil, limestone, marble, timber. BENIN IS LOCATED in West Africa and is bordered to the west by TOGO, to the north by NIGER and BURKINA […]

Benguela Current

THE BENGUELA CURRENT is one of the world’s four major eastern boundary currents. It flows northward off the coast of southwestern Africa along the western coasts of SOUTH AFRICA, NAMIBIA, and southern ANGOLA. The Benguela Current, along with the South Equatorial Current, and the northern part of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current make up the South […]

Benelux

BENELUX IS THE name of the customs union created in 1956, named for the initial syllables of its three member states: BELGIUM, NETHERLANDS, and LUXEMBOURG. The name originally applied to the economic pact between the three countries, the Benelux Economic Union, but is now also used to refer to the three countries as a geopolitical […]

Benares

BENARES (also Banâras, Varanasi) is an ancient city in the state of Uttar Pradesh, in northern INDIA. Its population is just over 1 million (1991). Although the name Benares appears on many maps, it is actually a corruption of the official Indian name of the city, Varanasi. In addition to many religious institutions and festivals, […]

Belize

Area 8,865 square mi (22,966 square km) Population 339,800 2014 Capital Belmopan Highest Point 3,805 ft (1,160 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $1.624 billion 2013 Primary Natural Resources bananas, cocoa, citrus, sugar, fish. BELIZE (“BELICE” IN SPANISH), formerly the Settlement of Belize in the Bay of Honduras (prior to 1862), British Honduras (1862–1973), and […]

Belgium

Area 11,790 square mi (30,510 square km) Population 11.23 million 2014 Capital Brussels Highest Point Signal de Botrange 2,290 ft (694 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $533.4 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources coal, natural gas. ALTHOUGH IT OCCUPIES a central position at the economic crossroads of western Europe, and its people have been central […]

Belarus

Area 128,997 square mi (207,600 square km) Population 9.470 million 2014 Capital Minsk Highest Point 1,135 ft (346 m) Lowest Point 295 ft (90 m) GDP $76.14 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources forests, peat deposits, oil. BELARUS, FORMALLY BELORUSSIA, also called White Russia, is bounded on the west by POLAND, on the northwest by LATVIA […]

Beijing

BEIJING IS LOCATED in the northern part of the North China Plain, about 100 mi (160 km) northwest of the Bohai Sea. As capital of the People’s Republic of CHINA, Beijing is the core of a special municipal district, giving the region political status equivalent to that of an entire province. For this reason, the […]

Bay of Bengal

THE BAY OF BENGAL is a triangle-shaped water body, which is an extension of the INDIAN OCEAN to the north. It is stretched over an area of 5.7 million square mi (14.7 million square km) with an average depth of approximately 8,530 ft (2,600 m). Countries that surround the bay are SRI LANKA, INDIA, BANGLADESH, MYANMAR […]

basin

BASINS ARE LARGE-SCALE depressions in the land surface or seafloor. Their sides may dip gently or steeply, but their bottoms are always wider than they are deep. Streams flowing into basins often fill their floors with sediments. Lakes typically occupy lower parts of the basins on land, thus they may fully emerge as lakes dry […]

bases of trade

GEOGRAPHIC BASES of trade are places established for the trade or exchange of commodities and/or the transshipment or warehousing of goods. While a base of trade may develop into a multifunctional administrative and/or ceremonial center, its original function as a nodal point at the intersection of at least two discreet networks remains the center’s primary […]

basaltic flows

THE WORD basalt is said to have an Ethiopian origin, meaning “black stone.” Basalt is a dark gray to black, dense to finely grained igneous rock that is the result of lava eruptions. Basalts are not only the most abundant lavas, but they are also the most voluminous. Basalt, when exposed to the air, becomes […]

Barcelona

BARCELONA IS THE second-largest city in SPAIN after MADRID and is the capital of the autonomous region of Catalunya/Cataluña (Catalonia), which is situated in the northeast of Spain. The region is bordered to the north by the PYRENEES mountain range, which acts as a natural border between Spain, ANDORRA, and FRANCE; to the east the […]

Barbados

Area 168 square mi (431 square km) Population 286,100 2014 Capital Bridgetown Highest Point Mount Hillaby 1,109 ft (336 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $4.348 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources petroleum, fish, natural gas. BARBADOS IS ONE of the clearest success stories of the CARIBBEAN SEA, with one of the most prosperous economies and stable […]

Bangladesh

Area 55,126 square mi (133,910 square km) Population 158.5 million 2014 Capital Dhaka Highest Point 4,035 ft (1,230 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $173.8 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources natural gas, arable land, coal. BANGLADESH HAS been an independent country since 1971, when it seceded from PAKISTAN in South Asia. Prior to Muslim occupation […]

Baluchistan

BALUCHISTAN, A SOUTHWESTERN province of PAKISTAN, extends from the Gomal River in the northeast to the ARABIAN SEA in the south and from the borders of IRAN and AFGHANISTAN in the west and northwest to the Sulaiman Mountains and Kirthar hills in the east. In its continuity to the west lies Iranian Baluchistan. The land […]

Balkhash, Lake

LOCATED IN eastern KAZAKHSTAN, Lake Balkhash is the world’s sixteenth-largest lake, covering a surface area of about 7,000 square mi (18,000 square km); however, its size is being reduced by overutilization of streams that flow into the lake. Closed, with no outflow, Lake Balkhash, like the ARAL SEA at the opposite end of Kazakhstan, has […]

Baikonur

BAIKONUR IS THE former Soviet Union’s primary space launch facility. In the early days of the Soviet space program, rockets were launched from Kasputin Yar, a small field in the lower VOLGA RIVER basin not far from Stalingrad (modern Volgograd). However, this launch facility had numerous problems. Mists rising from the Volga River frequently delayed […]

Baikal, Lake

THE BAIKAL, the world’s deepest lake, stretches 391 mi (636 km) long and nearly 50 mi (80 km) wide. On the northeastern borders of central Asia, it lies at an altitude of 1,494 ft (455.6 m) above the PACIFIC OCEAN sea level. With an area of 12,162 square mi (31,500 square km), the Baikal ranks […]

Bahrain

Area 256 square mi (665 square km) Population 1.344 million 2014 Capital Manama Highest Point 400 ft (122 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $33.87 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources oil, natural gas, fish, pearls. BAHRAIN IS LOCATED in the MIDDLE EAST; it is an archipelago in the PERSIAN GULF, east of SAUDI ARABIA. Bahrain […]

Bahamas

Area (land) 1,509 square mi (3,870 square km) Population 382,600 2014 Capital Nassau Highest Point 208 ft (63 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $8.511 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources timber, salt, aragonite. THE ISLAND OF San Salvador is cited as the first landing spot in the New World by the explorer Christopher Columbus on […]

Bab el Mandeb

CONNECTING THE RED SEA with the Gulf of Aden and the ARABIAN SEA, bounded by DJIBOUTI, ERITREA, and YEMEN, the Bab el Mandeb is a STRAIT and CHOKE POINT. It separates the Arabian Peninsula from East Africa (HORN OF AFRICA). As its Arabic name implies (“Gate of Tears”), it is a place of worry for […]

Azores

THE AZORES IS AN archipelago of nine islands situated in the middle of the North  ATLANTIC OCEAN, usually divided in three groups according to geographic proximity: the Eastern Group (Santa Maria and São Miguel), the Central Group (Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico, and Faial), and the Western Group (Flores and Corvo). The Azores constitutes, along with […]

Azerbaijan

Area 53,820 square mi (86,600 square km) Population 9.538 million 2014 Capital Baku Highest Point 15,551 ft (4,740 m) Lowest Point Caspian Sea -92 ft (-28 m) GDP $75.20 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources petroleum, natural gas. AZERBAIJAN, A FORMER Soviet republic, now officially the Republic of Azerbaijan, is a nation with a Turkic and […]

Austria

Area 32,377 square mi (83,858 square km) Population 8.534 million 2014 Capital Vienna Highest Point 12,457 ft (3,797 m) Lowest Point 377 ft (115 m) GDP $436.3 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources natural gas, iron, timber. LANDLOCKED AUSTRIA (Österreich in German) is located at the cultural and geographical crossroads of Central Europe. It is also […]

Australia

Area 2,967,895 square mi (7,686,850 square km) Population 23.49 million 2014 Capital Canberra Highest Point 7,311 ft (2,229 m) Lowest Point 49 ft (15 m) GDP $1.454 trillion 2014 Primary Natural Resources gold, silver, uranium. THE COMMONWEALTH of Australia is the world’s sixth-largest country and is located on the world’s smallest continent between the INDIAN […]

Aurora borealis

NORTHERN LIGHTS, or the aurora borealis, are shimmering lights that shine above the Earth near the geomagnetic North Pole. The lights, often bright enough to read by, are usually green or red. The phenomenon is caused when a solar storm discharges high-energy particles that are channeled into a ring by the Earth’s magnetic field. The […]

Atlas Mountains

THE ATLAS MOUNTAINS of northwest Africa are an elaborate assemblage of mountain ranges that trend from southern coastal MOROCCO and the CANARY ISLANDS, through ALGERIA into coastal TUNISIA. Extending more than 1,500 km (932 mi) and chiefly composed of sedimentary and igneous rocks that have been folded and faulted over the past 85 to 150 […]

Atlantic Ocean

THE NAME OF THE Atlantic Ocean is derived from the Greek god Atlas and means “Sea of Atlas.” Its area is approximately 41 million square mi (106 million square km) including its adjacent seas; volume is approximately 85 million cubic mi (354 million cubic km), including adjacent areas. The average depth of the ocean with […]

Ascension Island

ASCENSION ISLAND IS an overseas territory that forms part of a single territorial grouping (with ST. HELENA and Tristan da Cunha) under the sovereignty of the British crown. Ascension is a small island, 35 square mi (90 square km), of volcanic origin between Africa and South America, just south of the equator. The capital is […]

Aruba

A NETHERLANDS territory in the CARIBBEAN SEA and formerly the A in the ABC Islands, Aruba has come into its own in the past two decades, thanks in large part to aggressive advertisement campaigns on U.S. television. Already prosperous due to oil refineries established by the Dutch in the early 20th century, this advertising strategy […]

Armenia

Area 11,500 square mi (29,800 square km) Population 2.984 million 2014 Capital Yerevan Highest Point 13,418 ft (4,090 m) Lowest Point 1,312 ft (400 m) GDP $10.88 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources hydroelectric potential. ARMENIA, LYING SOUTH of the towering CAUCASUS range and on the southwestern edge of Asia, is bounded to the north and […]

Arkansas

ITS NAME DERIVED from a French-adapted Native American term meaning “downstream people,” Arkansas is the 27th largest state at 53,104 square mi (137,539 square km). The state’s shape is almost like a box, as its north-south extent is 240 mi (386 km) and the east-west extent is 275 mi (443 km). Located in the mid-Southwest […]

Arizona

A PLACE OF indisputable geographical interest in the U.S. Southwest, of which the GRAND CANYON of the Colorado River is but the leading example, Arizona currently exemplifies a trend toward urbanization in western states. While much of Arizona’s land area of 113,635 square mi (294,315 square km) remains undeveloped, Arizona’s capital and largest city, Phoenix, […]

Argentina

Area 1,068,302 square mi (2,766,890 square km) Capital Buenos Aires Population 41.80 million 2014 Highest Point 22,834 ft (6,960 m) Lowest Point -344 ft (-105 m) GDP $540.2 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources iron ore, petroleum, uranium. ARGENTINA IS A COUNTRY located in southern South America, the second-largest country on the continent. Argentina shares a […]

Arctic Ocean

THE ARCTIC is the smallest and shallowest of the Earth’s five oceans, occupying 4 percent of the world’s ocean space and surrounding the North Pole, the northernmost locale on the planet. The waters of the Arctic are fairly equidistant around the area, making the North Pole the approximate center of the ocean. The majority of […]

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

LOCATED IN northeastern ALASKA and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) encompasses the largest diversity of wildlife of any protected area in the circumpolar north, earning it the nickname “the American Serengeti.” Efforts to preserve the refuge began in 1960 with the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife […]

Arctic Circle

LOCATED AT 66.5 degrees north latitude or 23.5 degrees southward of the North Pole, the Arctic Circle forms an imaginary line marking the northernmost location where the sun can be seen during the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice (December 21). On June 22 and again on December 21, the circle of illumination (formed by the sun’s […]

Aral Sea

THE ARAL SEA (Aral’skoye More) is one of the world’s largest lakes or inland seas. It is located to the east of the CASPIAN SEA in the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The region is arid, with the Karakum Desert lying to the west of the Aral Sea and the Kyzylkum Desert to […]

Arabian Sea

THE ARABIAN SEA covers approximately 1,491,000 square mi (3,862,000 square km) and is located between the Arabian and Indian peninsulas in the northwestern area of the INDIAN OCEAN, bounded by INDIA, PAKISTAN, IRAN, OMAN, YEMEN, and the HORN OF AFRICA. The Arabian Sea has been the historic trade route from Occident to Orient since the […]

Arab geographers

IN THE MIDDLE AGES, the Arabs, inspired by Mohammed’s faith, conquered the FERTILE CRESCENT, North Africa, southern SPAIN, and much of Central Asia, including IRAN and AFGHANISTAN. Arriving from the deserts of Arabia with a rich linguistic tradition but few material possessions, they soon were introduced to the ancient thought of INDIA, Persia, and GREECE. […]

Aquifer

AN AQUIFER IS a subsurface structure or formation that provides a sufficiently permeable condition to yield significant quantities of water to wells and springs. Soil water movement is determined by two factors: porosity, which is the ability to hold on to water particles, and permeability, which is concerned with movement. The word aquifer comes from two […]

Appalachian Mountains

THE APPALACHIAN Mountains of eastern North America comprise a north to south-tending range that extends for 1,600 mi (2,500 km) from the Gaspé Peninsula in Atlantic Maritime CANADA to northern ALABAMA in the UNITED STATES. Uplifted by the collision of continents ancestral to North America and Africa 270 million years ago, the Appalachian Mountains are the […]

Antipode

DURING THE TIME of Plato and Aristotle (circa 390 B.C.E.), the term antipode was used in reference to a natural balance thought to be sustained by the existence of a continent south of the equator, equal in size to the northern continent. Ptolemy (100–170 C.E.) described this southern landmass as Terra Australis Incognita (unknown southern […]

Antigua and Barbuda

Area 173 square mi (443 square km) Capital Saint John’s Population 90,900 2014 Highest Point 1,326 ft (402 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $1.269 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources pleasant tropical climate. ANTIGUA WAS ONE of the primary British colonies in the CARIBBEAN SEA and remains a leader among the Leeward Islands (from the […]

Antarctica

THE WORLD’S fifth-largest continent, Antarctica is home to the South Pole. This continent of almost 98 percent ice and 2 percent barren rock holds the distinction of being the coldest, windiest, driest, and highest continent. Antarctica covers some 5.4 million square mi (14 million square km), and has no indigenous people, but seasonal staff from […]

Antarctic Circle

THE ANTARCTIC CIRCLE is an imaginary line located at 66.5 degrees south latitude or 23.5 degrees northward of the South Pole. It marks the southernmost location where the sun can be seen on June 22 (the Southern Hemisphere’s winter solstice) and the northernmost location where the midnight sun is visible on December 21 (the Southern Hemisphere’s […]

Anguilla

ANGUILLA IS ONE of the smallest and least developed islands in the CARIBBEAN SEA. It was administered as a British colony along with SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS until 1971. Its inhabitants did not wish to remain a dependency of its larger neighbors when they achieved independence in 1983, and Anguilla opted instead to retain its […]

Angola

Area 481,351 square mi (1,246,700 square km) Population 22.14 million 2014 Capital Luanda Highest Point 8,594 ft (2,620 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $131.4 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources petroleum, diamonds, natural gas. A COUNTRY LOCATED along the southwest coast of Africa, the republic of Angola is a vast territory divided into 18 provinces, […]

Andorra

Area 183 square mi (468 square km) Capital Andorra la Vella Population 80,150 2014 Highest Point 9,722 ft (2,946 m) Lowest Point 2,772 ft (840 m) GDP $3.249 billion 2013 Primary Natural Resources hydropower, timber. ONE OF THE WORLD’S true curiosities, the sovereign coprincipality of Andorra retains independent status which, according to local history, was […]

Andes

THE ANDES IS A mountain system in South America. The mountains form the “backbone” of South America, stretching from the Caribbean coast along the western side of the continent to its southern tip. The name Andes probably derives from either Quechua or Aymara, the two principal Native American languages of South America. Plate-tectonic forces during […]

Ancient empires and explorations

SINCE THE BEGINNING of history, human beings have explored the Earth. With the creation of empires, the explorations were often connected to great expeditions made to conquer new territories or to open new commercial roads. The ancient empires and their explorations include the following. EGYPT appeared as a unified state around 3300 B.C.E. About 3100 […]

Anatolian Plateau

THE ANATOLIAN PLATEAU is the central upland region of the ancient region of Anatolia, today’s TURKEY. The plateau is hemmed in by two parallel mountain ranges, the Taurus to the south, along the Mediterranean coast, and the Pontic Mountains to the north, along the coast of the BLACK SEA. Anatolia has served as a bridge […]

Amur River

THE AMUR RIVER, in Siberia, springs from the confluence of the Shilka and Argun Rivers east of Lake BAIKAL and flows over 1,800 mi (2,897 km) toward the Tatar Straits, the passage between Sakhalin and the Russian Pacific Coast. With all tributaries, the Amur basin covers nearly 750,000 square mi (1,942,491 square km) of area. […]

Amu Darya

THE AMU DARYA has served as a bridge between cultures for several millennia. A river that flows straight across one of the harshest deserts in the world, it has served as a natural highway for migrants and invaders from Central Asia to South Asia and the MIDDLE EAST, as well as a boundary for the empires […]