ECOLOGY IS THE study of the interaction between an organism and its physical environment. Human ecology specifically focuses on humans as a group of organisms and their mutual relationships within the habitat. The term ecology has its origin in two ancient Greek words: oikos (house or habitat) and logia (words or teaching). Thus, the concept […]

ecological niches

IN CONTEMPORARY ecology, the term ecological niches is referred to as the position occupied by representatives of any life form (usually alive) in biocenosis, and, at the same time, the smallest unit of a habitat that is occupied by an organism. The notion reflects an organism's or species's place in the community, taking into account […]

Easter Island

POLITICALLY, EASTER ISLAND has belonged to CHILE since 1888, though it lies some 2,200 mi (3,500 km) west of the coast of Chile and just south of the TROPIC OF CAPRICORN in the PACIFIC OCEAN. Its nearest neighbor is PITCAIRN ISLAND 1,132 mi (1,819 km) to the west. The major settlement is Hanga Roa. Easter […]

East Timor

Area 5,853 square mi (15,007 square km) Population 1.212 million 2014 Capital Dili Highest Point 9,778 ft (2,963 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $1.552 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources gold, petroleum, natural gas, manganese, marble. THE ISLAND OF Timor, in the Indonesian archipelagos, is no stranger to struggle. Disputed between the Dutch and Portuguese […]


STRONG GROUND motion occurs whenever energy, conserved as strain in the Earth's crust or upper mantle, is released instantaneously. In such an event, commonly called an earthquake, energy radiates from the source of release in a series of waves. As waves propagate through rock and other elastic media, they cause periodic displacements (movements up and […]


DUNES ARE PILES of windblown sediment. Geomorphologists refer to dunes and other wind-created features as aeolian landforms. (Aeolus was the ancient Greek god of the winds.) Geomorphologists also refer to dunes as sand dunes, as sand is the most common type of sediment in the deposits. Dunes sometimes include sand-size aggregates of clay, gypsum, or […]

Drakensberg Mountains

THE DRAKENSBERG Mountains form one of the most scenic natural areas in SOUTH AFRICA. The mountain range straddles the eastern border of LESOTHO, a LANDLOCKED nation lying within the boundaries of South Africa, located about 150 mi (250 km) northwest of Durban. The name Drakensberg means “Dragon Mountains” in Afrikaans. The range is also known […]

Don River

THE DON RIVER IS one of RUSSIA's major commercial rivers, which, connected to the VOLGA through the 65-mi (105-km) Volga-Don Canal, allows river traffic to sail from Russia's interior ports as far inland as MOSCOW to ports on the BLACK SEA and beyond to the MEDITERRANEAN. The Don River basin also includes its most important […]

domino theory

THE DOMINO THEORY states that if one vital country in a region falls to an expansionist negative philosophy, then other countries in the region similarly situated and similarly structured would fall victim to the same philosophy, either through force or through influence of example. In its pure form, the negative philosophy is communism but in […]

Dominican Republic

Area 20,729 square mi (48,730 square km) Population 10.53 million 2014 Capital Santo Domingo Highest Point 10,416 ft (3,175 m) Lowest Point 151 ft (46 m) GDP $63.97 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources nickel, gold, silver. THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, which sits on the western portion of the island of Hispaniola in the CARIBBEAN SEA, was […]


Area 294 square mi (754 square km) Population 72,340 2014 Capital Roseau Highest Point Morne Diablatins 4,775 ft (1,447 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $537.8 million 2014 Primary Natural Resources timber, hydropower. THE LAST OF THE islands of the West Indies to be colonized, chiefly because of the fierce resistance of the native Carib […]


Area 8,958 square mi (23,000 square km) Population 886,300 (2014) Capital Djibouti Highest Point Musa Ali 6,653 ft (2,028 m) Lowest Point -550 ft (-168 m) GDP $1.582 billion (2014) Primary Natural Resources negligible. BORDERED BY ETHIOPIA, ERITREA, and SOMALIA in Africa, the country of Djibouti (the former French Somaliland and then AFARS and Issas) […]


EMPLOYING THE GEOGRAPHIC sense of the term, distance can be defined as the amount of separation between two points or objects on the surface of the Earth. Geographic distance is usually expressed as a linear measurement between locations using one of several commonly accepted metrics (a metric is a standard of measurement using associated units). […]


DIRECTION IS DEFINED as the line or course on which something is moving, or at which it is aimed to move, or toward which something is pointing or facing. Direction is commonly referenced as an angle made by a given line with an axis of reference, that is up, down, right, left, and so on. […]


DIFFUSION IS the spread of a phenomenon, such as an idea, a technological innovation, or a disease, over space and time. The origins of interest in diffusion in geography can be traced back to the work of the German geographer Frederick Ratzel (1844–1904). In the second volume of his highly influential Anthropogeographie, Ratzel described the […]


DHAKA BECAME the capital of the newly formed sovereign state of BANGLADESH in 1971. The city has a tropical monsoon climate with heavy summer rainfall (June through September), about 80 in (203 cm) annually. Summer is hot and humid and winter is dry and mild. It is located on a tributary of the Meghna-GANGES river […]


DETERMINISM (from the Latin determino, meaning “define”) is a basic philosophical theory about general interdependence and interconditionality of phenomena and processes. This idea was explained for the first time in ancient natural philosophy (atomistic ideas, peripathetic school), in notions about primary origins and elements. Later, it was developed by Persian poet Omar Khayyam, Italian naturalist […]


SINCE THE mid-1970s, the United Nations (UN) has considered desertification a significant environmental problem involving high economic, societal, and human costs. The UN's Conference on Desertification, held in 1977, outlined an action plan over a 20-year period that, unfortunately, did little to change the course of desertification. The definition of desertification itself is controversial. In […]


THERE IS A TENDENCY, in popular opinion and some public policy, to view deserts dismissively as unproductive wastelands. The 14th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica made the case with exuberant eloquence: “Desert, a term popularly applied to any environmentally extreme, deserted, desolate, uninhabitable waste area.” While they are indeed less productive of biomass than other […]


Area 16,807 square mi (43,094 square km) Population 5.640 million 2014 Capital Copenhagen Highest Point 571 ft (173 m) Lowest Point -23 ft (-7 m) GDP $342.0 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources petroleum, natural gas, fish, salt. DENMARK IS A COUNTRY whose history and culture is almost entirely shaped by the sea. With a coastline […]


DEMOGRAPHY IS THE study of populations (a term used to denote the collection of persons alive at a particular point in time and who meet certain criteria). Demographics have to do with population statistics. Usually referred to as a census, most often these data are collected through a survey process and by public agencies at […]


A DELTA IS AN AREA of land that has been built up at the mouth of a river, where it flows into a quiet body of water, such as a lake or an ocean. The delta is formed when the river, which is moving swiftly and carrying sediment such as mud, slows down to enter […]

Delmarva Peninsula

THE 5,940-square-mi (15,384 square km) Delmarva Peninsula is located in the mid-Atlantic area of the UNITED STATES and borders the Chesapeake Bay, the Delaware Bay and the ATLANTIC OCEAN. The historic importance of the area is that it formed an important political and social demarcation between the North and the South of the United States: […]


DELAWARE IS ONE OF the Middle Atlantic states of the UNITED STATES. It is also the country's second smallest state after RHODE ISLAND, covering 2,057 square mi (5,328 square km) within the DELMARVA PENINSULA. It is bordered by MARYLAND on the west and south, NEW JERSEY to the northeast across the Delaware Bay and Delaware […]

Deccan Plateau

LOCATED IN INDIA, in the southern part of the peninsula south of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the Deccan Plateau can be considered the cultural and historical heart of India, defining the subcontinent. The great epic poems of the Vedas tell of the coming of the Aryan-speaking peoples that dominate all of northern Indian today. However, the […]

Dead Sea

THE DEAD SEA IS a 390-square-mi (1,010-squarekm) salt lake located on the borders of PALESTINE, ISRAEL, and JORDAN. It is the lowest water point in the world, and its coast, at 1,292 ft below sea level (-395 m), is the lowest dry point on Earth. The lake is divided into two unequal parts by el-Lisan […]

Davis, William M. (1850–1934)

WILLIAM DAVIS WAS among the leading geographers of the early part of the 20th century. Today, Davis might be more narrowly considered a geomorphologist based on his major research interests. But in his time, Davis enjoyed considerable influence over the direction and conduct of geographical science, in the UNITED STATES and in Europe. Born to […]

Darien Gap

STRADDLING THE BORDER of the republics of PANAMA and COLOMBIA, the Darien Gap is home to one of the least exploited and most diverse ecosystems in the world. Flanked by the PACIFIC OCEAN to the north and west and the CARIBBEAN SEA to the east, the area includes two national parks, Darien National Park in Panama […]

Danubian Gates

FOR CENTURIES, traffic along the DANUBE RIVER was hindered by a stretch of treacherous rocks and narrow gorges at the point at which the river cut through the Southern Carpathian mountain range. This stretch, about 62 mi (100 km) in length, along the border of ROMANIA and Yugoslavia (SERBIA), is known as the Danubian or […]

Danube River

THE DANUBE RIVER IS the longest river in western Europe, surpassed in Europe as a whole only by the VOLGA in RUSSIA. Fourteen countries are drained by its watershed, covering over 312,000 square mi (800,000 square km): GERMANY, AUSTRIA (and small parts of eastern SWITZERLAND), the CZECH REPUBLIC, SLOVAKIA, HUNGARY (and a small corner of […]


DAMASCUS (in Arabic, “Dimashq”) is the capital and chief city of SYRIA, with a population of 1.7 million people (2002). The ancient city is also known in Arabic as “as-Sham” meaning “the Northern,” indicating its geographical position north of the traditional Arab homelands. Damascus is situated in the Ghutah Oasis on a plateau 2,263 ft […]

Czech Republic

Area 30,450 square mi (78,866 square km) Population 10.51 million 2014 Capital Prague Highest Point 5,256 ft (1,602 m) Lowest Point 377 ft (115 m) GDP $205.5 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources graphite, coal, timber. THE CZECH REPUBLIC consists of the two historic regions of Bohemia and Moravia. The Czech Republic borders SLOVAKIA to the […]


Area 3,604 square mi (9,250 square km) Population 1.153 million 2014 Capital Nicosia Highest Point 6,407 ft (1,951 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $23.23 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources copper, pyrites, asbestos. CYPRUS IS AN island in the eastern MEDITERRANEAN SEA, 70 mi (113 km) south of TURKEY. For thousands of years, its civilization […]


CYCLONES ARE HAZARDOUS weather conditions distinguished by extreme blasts of wind moving in a circular pattern. Cyclones generally appear over tropical waters; however, some are able to reach land, where they inflict significant damage on buildings and communities. Cyclones can be placed into categories such as hurricane (Western Hemisphere) and typhoon (Eastern Hemisphere). The categorization […]

cultural geography

CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY IS a subdiscipline of HUMAN GEOGRAPHY. The founding father of cultural geography in North America is Carl Ortwin SAUER, and most of the research in cultural geography from the 1920s to the beginning of the 1980s was carried out by cultural geographers walking in the footsteps of Sauer and the so-called Berkeley School. […]


Area 68,885 square mi (110,860 square km) Population 11.26 million 2014 Capital Havana Highest Point 6,578 ft (2,005 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $77.15 billion 2013 Primary Natural Resources sugar, tobacco, citrus, coffee, rice. CUBA, THE 15th largest island in world, is part of the West Indies in the CARIBBEAN SEA. This island, which […]


Area 22,000 square mi (56,542 square km) Population 4.236 million 2014 Capital Zagreb Highest Point Dinara 604 ft (1,830 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $57.22 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources oil, coal, bauxite, hydropower. CROATIA IS AT once one of the oldest and newest states in Europe. There has been a Croatian state of […]

Cote d’Ivoire

Area 124,501 square mi (322,460 square km) Population 20.80 million (2014) Capital Yamoussoukro Highest Point 5,748 ft (1,752 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $34.25 billion (2014) Primary Natural Resources petroleum, natural gas, diamonds, manganese. COTE D'IVOIRE (Ivory Coast) is bordered by MALI and BURKINA FASO on the north, by LIBERIA and GUINEA on the […]

Costa Rica

Area 19,729 square mi (51,100 square km) Population 4.938 million 2014 Capital San Jose Highest Point 12,500 ft (3,810 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $49.55 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources coffee, bananas, agricultural products. THE REPUBLIC OF Costa Rica, home to almost 3.9 million people, is located in Central America between NICARAGUa and PANAMA […]

core and periphery

CORE AND PERIPHERY are terms used in geographic models to describe areas of differing economic production and political power and can be applied to both intra- and interstate variations. Core areas are described as the engines of economic growth and are characterized by modern, technologically advanced production methods as well as highly skilled and highwage […]

Cook Islands

PART OF NEW ZEALAND, the Cook Islands consist of 15 islands in the south PACIFIC OCEAN, about halfway between HAWAII and NEW ZEALAND. They are about the same size as RHODE ISLAND. The islands are scattered over an area of more than 706,566 square mi (1.83 million square km). The nine islands in the southern […]


THE EARTH IS AN ocean-dominated planet. Only one-third of the planet's surface is dry land. The Earth's land areas include innumerable islands and several larger expanses of land termed continents. A continent is defined as a mass of land significantly larger than an island, completely or nearly surrounded by ocean water. By common agreement among […]


CONTINENTALITY IS A climatic effect that results from a continental interior being insulated from oceanic influences. Winds and air masses of moderate temperature that originate over oceans move onshore to diminish differences in winter and summer temperatures in coastal areas of continents. Interiors of continents are too distant to experience the moderating effect. As a […]

continental shelf

A CONTINENTAL SHELF is the submerged top of the continent's edge, lying between the shoreline and the continental slope that forms a border to a continent. In other words, the surface of the Earth lies at two general levels: a lower, which is the floor of the ocean basins, and an upper, the parts of […]

continental drift

CONTINENTAL DRIFT INVOLVES large-scale horizontal movements of continents relative to one another and to the ocean basins during one or more episodes of geologic time. The hypothesis of large-scale movement or displacement of continents has a long history. About 1800, Alexander von Humboldt, a German naturalist, noted the apparent fit of the bulge of eastern South […]


CONTAINMENT IS a political concept that served as the muted geopolitical battle cry for the UNITED STATES in the four decades of the Cold War (1947–89). It was first articulated in an embassy report from a young diplomat in Moscow dated February 22, 1946. In the “long telegram” George F. Kennan laid out a philosophical […]


CONNECTICUT IS the southernmost of the New England states in the northeastern UNITED STATES and has borders with MASSACHUSETTS in the north, NEW YORK in the west, and RHODE ISLAND to the east. There is also a very small area in the very northeast corner where Massachusetts extends south creating an eastern border. To the […]

Congo River

FROM ITS SOURCE on a savanna PLATEAU just south of Lake TANGANIKA, the Congo River flows some 2,880 mi (4,630 km) through equatorial africa before eventually emptying into the ATLANTIC OCEAN. While no other major river in the world transects the equator even once, the Congo River twice crosses the equator in its journey to […]

Congo, Democratic Republic of

Area 905,563 square mi (2,345,410 square km) Population 69.36 million (2014) Capital Kinshasha Highest Point 16,765 ft (5,110 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $32.96 billion (2014) Natural Resources diamonds, gold, silver, tin, bauxite. THE DEMOCRATIC Republic of Congo (DRC) is strategically located as the geographic centerpiece of Africa. Smaller in area than only SUDAN […]


Area 132,047 square mi (342,000 square km) Population 4.559 million (2014) Capital Brazzaville Highest Point 2,963 ft (903 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $14.14 billion (2014) Primary Natural Resources petroleum, wood, potassium, potash, gold. THE REPUBLIC OF Congo is located in western Africa and covers an area slightly smaller than MONTANA. It is bordered […]

computer mapping

COMPUTER MAPPING IS the general term used to describe the process of developing digital maps from aerial photographs, satellite images, global positioning systems (GPS) records, paper maps, and other archival data sources. GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS (GIS) are currently the most common implementation of computer mapping systems. A GIS consists of an organized collection of computer […]


Area 846 square mi (2,170 square km) Population 752,400 (2014) Capital Moroni Highest Point Le Kartala 7,788 ft (2,360m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $647.7 million (2014) Natural Resources tourism, arable land, agriculrural products. COMOROS IS ONE of the world's poorest, and also most politically unstable countries. Located off the east coast of Africa, at the northern end of the […]

commercial agriculture

PRIOR TO THE FIRST AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION, people relied on hunting and gathering to obtain food supplies. The agricultural revolution began as the individuals in the society began to cultivate soil, plant seeds, and use plows and animals to assist with the cultivation of the soil. This change from a hunting and gathering society did not […]


COLORADO IS ONE of the Rocky Mountain states located in the west-central part of the UNITED STATES. All of Colorado is more than 3,300 ft (1,000 m) above sea level. With an average elevation of 6,800 ft (2,070 m), Colorado is the highest of all the states. Colorado is a Spanish word meaning “reddish colored” […]


FROM THE ONSET of trade, the merchant traders established colonies in the foreign places where they did business. Those early merchant colonies were not colonialist in the strict sense. The merchants resided in foreign cities by the grace of the city officials. More commonly, colonialists dominated the indigenous peoples. The Greeks and Romans established military […]


Area 439,735 square mi (1,138,910 square km) Population 48.93 million 2014 Capital Bogota Highest Point 18,947 ft (5,775 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $377.7 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources petroleum, natural gas, coal, iron ore. COLOMBIA IS A country located in northwestern South America. Named for Christopher Columbus, it is the only South American […]

Cocos Islands

THE COCOS (or Keeling) Islands are a dependency of AUSTRALIA located in the INDIAN OCEAN, about 1,675 mi (2,700 km) northwest of Perth, and 620 mi (1,000 km) southwest of JAVA, INDONESIA. Unlike the volcanic peak of their closest neighbor, CHRISTMAS ISLAND, 560 mi (900 km) to the northeast, the Cocos Islands consist of two flat coral atolls, roughly 15.5 mi […]

coastal zone

THE COASTAL ZONE is where nature breathes its essence into poets and painters. Ancient Greeks believed it was where Neptune's energy encounters land. People living in the UNITED STATES call this transition between land and sea the shore, coast, or beach. Robert Gabler et al., define the coastal zone as “the dynamic region on land […]

climate classification

CLIMATE IS an average or aggregate of daily weather conditions over a period of years. Latitude, distance from oceans, atmospheric and oceanic circulation pattern, elevation, and local geographical features control the climate of a place. The controls of climate result in a plethora of interrelated elements of climate, ranging from temperature, pressure, wind, humidity, clouds, […]


THE TERM climate refers to the long-term averages of insolation (solar radiation absorbed by Earth), temperature, precipitation, cloud cover, air masses, atmospheric pressure, winds, and cloud coverage. Of these, temperature and precipitation are the most important factors in establishing climate type. A place may have rain on one day, clear conditions for a week, and […]

civilizations, early river

Early river valley civilizations arose in Mesopotamia, EGYPT, the INDUS RIVER Valley, and CHINA. Earlier agricultural societies (8,000 to 13,000 years ago) were largely subsistence cultures. The river civilizations had food enough to provide for classes of people other than just farmers. These societies all used agricultural surpluses to establish civilizations with cities and trade and […]


A CITY-STATE IS AN independent political entity composed of a large and important town and surrounding countryside. In ancient times, city-states, such as the Greek city-states and Rome, sometimes became great economic and military powers that secured far-flung empires, thereby imposing their will and culture on other civilizations. In late medieval and Renaissance ITALY, powerful […]

city types

CITIES ARE INFLUENCED by a broad variety of contexts and factors, including particular groups of people. As a consequence of numerous influences, the city may, to some extent, specialize in and be characterized as being of a particular type. To refer to people and government regimes, for example, a number of particular city types can […]

Christmas Island

CHRISTMAS ISLAND IS AN isolated island in the INDIAN OCEAN, located about 220 mi (360 km) southwest of JAVA, INDONESIA, and 1,400 mi (2,300 km) northwest of AUSTRALIA, to which it belongs as a dependency. Maintained chiefly as a phosphate-mining colony since the 19th century, it is now being developed as a tropical island holiday […]

Christaller, Walter (1893–1969)

A GERMAN geographer, Walter Christaller helped bring quantitative and statistical disciplines to the study of geography. Christaller was born in Berneck, GERMANY; his father was a clergyman and his mother an author. Before 1914, he attended university in Heidelberg and in Munich. He enlisted during World War I, and became an officer. Returning after the […]

choke point

A CHOKE POINT IS ANY narrow passage that restricts traffic. It literally connotes a location where the flow could be choked off. As a military term, it refers to areas in lines of sea, ground, air or space communications (physical travel) that restrict freedom of movement by slowing and confining. This allows an adversary to […]


Area 3,645,468 square mi (9,596,960 square km) Population 1.364 billion 2014 Capital Beijing Highest Point 29,035 ft (8,850 m) Lowest Point -505 ft (-154 m) GDP $10.36 trillion 2014 Primary Natural Resources coal, iron ore, petroleum, natural gas. CHINA IS ONE of the largest countries in the world, with more than 3.6 million square mi (9.6 […]


Area 302,778 square mi (756,950 square km) Population 17.77 million 2014 Capital Santiago Highest Point 22,573 ft (6,880 m) Lowest Point 0 m GDP $258.1 billion 2014 Primary Natural Resources copper, fish, agricultural products. CHILE IS A LONG and narrow country in South America, about 3,999 mi (6,435 km) long and an average of 112 […]

Changjiang (Yangzi River)

THE CHANGJIANG cuts through the heart of CHINA and is regarded by the Chinese as the geographical marker dividing the country into north and south. It winds its way through the 10 provinces of Qinghai, Tibet, Yunnan, Sichuan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Anhui, Jiangsu and Shanghai before reaching the East China Sea. Its fertile ALLUVIAL PLAINs produce great amounts of […]

Chad, Lake

LAKE CHAD IS A shallow freshwater lake located in west-central Africa. Only 23 ft (7 m) at its deepest, it is 820 ft (250 m) above sea level, and was once larger than the state of VERMONT. In the 1960s, Lake Chad was approximately the size of lake ERIE, one of the Great Lakes located […]


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

Methods for the delimitation of the CBD include mapping land use intensities referring to the central business height index, recording the percentage of the land uses of each floor of each building within the CBD, and calculation of high-level pedestrian flows. The Manhattan CBD is, for example, characterized by very high offices blocks and a […]

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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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, […]


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 […]


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 […]


Area 183,569 square mi (475,440 square km) Population 22.82 million (2014) Capital Yaounde 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 […]


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. […]


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 […]


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, COTE D'IVOIRE, and TOGO to the south, BENIN to the southeast, NIGER […]


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 Senora Santa Maria del Buen Aire. Measuring 77 square mi (199 square km), the […]


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 […]


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 […]