The contiguous United States or officially the conterminous United Statesconsists of the 48 adjoining U.S. states (plus the District of Columbia) on the continent of North America. The terms exclude the non-contiguous states of Alaska and Hawaii, and all other off-shore insular areas. These differ from the related term continental United States which includes Alaska (also on the North American continent but separated from the 48 states by British Columbia, Canada) but excludes Hawaii and insular territories.
In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders. Four states use the term commonwealth rather than state in their full official names.
A continent is one of several very large landmasses of the world. Generally identified by convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered from largest in area to smallest, they are: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia.
North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere; it is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.
The greatest distance (on a great circle route) entirely within the 48 contiguous states is 2,802 miles (4,509 km, between Florida and the State of Washington); the greatest north-south line is 1,650 miles (2,660 km).
A great circle, also known as an orthodrome, of a sphere is the intersection of the sphere and a plane that passes through the center point of the sphere. A great circle is the largest circle that can be drawn on any given sphere. Any diameter of any great circle coincides with a diameter of the sphere, and therefore all great circles have the same center and circumference as each other. This special case of a circle of a sphere is in opposition to a small circle, that is, the intersection of the sphere and a plane that does not pass through the center. Every circle in Euclidean 3-space is a great circle of exactly one sphere.
Florida is the southernmost contiguous state in the United States. The state is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the south by the Straits of Florida. Florida is the 22nd-most extensive, the 3rd-most populous, and the 8th-most densely populated of the U.S. states. Jacksonville is the most populous municipality in the state and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. The Miami metropolitan area is Florida's most populous urban area. Tallahassee is the state's capital.
Washington, officially the State of Washington, is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. Named for George Washington, the first president of the United States, the state was made out of the western part of the Washington Territory, which was ceded by Britain in 1846 in accordance with the Oregon Treaty in the settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute. It was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state in 1889. Olympia is the state capital; the state's largest city is Seattle. Washington is sometimes referred to as Washington State to distinguish it from Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States.
Together, the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia occupy a combined area of 3,119,884.69 square miles (8,080,464.3 km2). Of this area, 2,959,064.44 square miles (7,663,941.7 km2) is contiguous land, composing 83.65% of total U.S. land area, similar to the area of Australia. Officially, 160,820.25 square miles (416,522.5 km2) of the contiguous United States is water area, composing 62.66% of the nation's total water area.
Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.
The contiguous United States would be placed 5th in the list of sovereign states and dependencies by area; the total area of the country, including Alaska and Hawaii, ranks fourth. Brazil is the only country that is larger in total area than the contiguous United States, but smaller than the entire United States, while Russia, Canada and China are the only three countries larger than both. The 2010 census population of this area was 306,675,006, comprising 99.33% of the nation's population, and a density of 103.639 inhabitants/sq mi (40.015/km2), compared to 87.264/sq mi (33.692/km2) for the nation as a whole.
Brazil, officially the Federative Republic of Brazil, is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers and with over 208 million people, Brazil is the world's fifth-largest country by area and the fifth most populous. Its capital is Brasília, and its most populated city is São Paulo. The federation is composed of the union of the 26 states, the Federal District, and the 5,570 municipalities. It is the largest country to have Portuguese as an official language and the only one in the Americas; it is also one of the most multicultural and ethnically diverse nations, due to over a century of mass immigration from around the world.
Russia, officially the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), Russia is by a considerable margin the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, and the ninth most populous, with about 146.79 million people as of 2019, including Crimea. About 77% of the population live in the western, European part of the country. Russia's capital, Moscow, is one of the largest cities in the world and the second largest city in Europe; other major cities include Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod. Extending across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait. However, Russia recognises two more countries that border it, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which are internationally recognized as parts of Georgia.
Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States, stretching some 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, with 70% of citizens residing within 100 kilometres (62 mi) of the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.
The contiguous United States also does not include overseas U.S. territories such as American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico, the latter of which has a higher population than Alaska and Hawaii.
American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of Samoa. Its location is centered on 14.2710° S, 170.1322° W. It is on the eastern border of the International Date Line, while independent Samoa is west of it.
The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, is an insular area and commonwealth of the United States consisting of 14 islands in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The CNMI includes the 14 northernmost islands in the Mariana Archipelago except the southernmost island of the chain, Guam, which is a separate U.S. territory. The CNMI and Guam are the westernmost point and territory of the United States.
Guam is an unincorporated and organized territory of the United States in Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean. It is the westernmost point and territory of the United States, along with the Northern Mariana Islands. The capital city of Guam is Hagåtña and the most populous city is Dededo. The inhabitants of Guam are called Guamanians, and they are American citizens by birth. Indigenous Guamanians are the Chamorros, who are related to other Austronesian natives of Eastern Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan. Guam has been a member of the Pacific Community since 1983.
While conterminous U.S. has the precise meaning of contiguous U.S. (both adjectives meaning "sharing a common boundary"), other terms commonly used to describe the 48 contiguous states have a greater degree of ambiguity.
Because Alaska is also on the North American continent, the term continental United States also includes that state, so the term is qualified with the explicit inclusion of Alaska to resolve any ambiguity.On May 14, 1959, the United States Board on Geographic Names issued the following definitions based partially on the reference in the Alaska Omnibus Bill, which defined the continental United States as "the 49 States on the North American Continent and the District of Columbia..." The Board reaffirmed these definitions on May 13, 1999. However, even before Alaska became a state, it was properly included within the continental U.S. due to being an incorporated territory.
The United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN) is a federal body operating under the United States Secretary of the Interior. The purpose of the board is to establish and maintain uniform usage of geographic names throughout the federal government of the United States.
CONUS, a technical term used by the U.S. Department of Defense, General Services Administration, NOAA/National Weather Service, and others, has been defined both as the continental United States, and as the 48 contiguous states.The District of Columbia is not always specifically mentioned as being part of CONUS.
OCONUS is derived from CONUS with O for outside added, thus referring to Outside of Continental United States (OCONUS).
The term lower 48 is also used to refer to the conterminous United States. The National Geographic style guide recommends the use of contiguous or conterminous United States instead of lower 48 when the 48 states are meant, unless used in the context of Alaska.
During World War II, the first four numbered Air Forces of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) were said to be assigned to the Zone of the Interior by the American military organizations of the time—the future states of Alaska and Hawaii, then each only organized incorporated territories of the Union, were respectively covered by the Eleventh Air Force and Seventh Air Force during the war.
Alaskans, Hawaiians, and non-continental territories have unique labels for the contiguous United States because of their own locations relative to them.
Alaska became the 49th state of the United States on January 3, 1959. Alaska is on the northwest end of the North American continent, but separated from the rest of the United States Pacific coast by the Canadian province of British Columbia. The term Lower 48 has, for many years, been a common Alaskan equivalent for "contiguous United States";today, more Alaskans use the term "Outside", though a few persons may use "Outside" to refer to any location not within Alaska.
Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States on August 21, 1959. It is the southernmost and so far, the latest state to join the Union. Not part of any continent, Hawaii is located in the Pacific Ocean, about 2,200 miles (3,500 km) from North America and almost halfway to Asia. In Hawaii and overseas American territories, for instance, the terms the Mainland or U.S. Mainland are often used to refer to the contiguous United States, or Continental United States or U.S. continent in reference to the 49 states in North America.
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Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Miami, Florida. Puerto Ricans born in Puerto Rico are US citizens and are free to move to the mainland. A Stateside Puerto Rican is a term for residents in a U.S. state who were born in or trace family ancestry to Puerto Rico.
Apart from off-shore US islands, a few continental portions of the contiguous US are accessible by road only by traveling through Canada. Point Roberts, Washington; Elm Point, Minnesota; and the Northwest Angle in Minnesota are three such places. Alburgh, Vermont, is not directly connected by land, but is accessible by road via bridges from within Vermont and from New York.
The 48 contiguous United States are:
Contiguous United States: The 48 adjoining states and the District of Columbia.
The continental United States comprises the 48 contiguous, or coterminous, states plus Alaska.
Continental United States: The 48 adjoining states, Alaska and District of Columbia.
The Continental U.S. includes the lower 48 states as well as the State of Alaska, unless otherwise specified.
CONUS - "Continental United States." CONUS refers to the 48 contiguous states. It is not synonymous with United States. CONUS is acceptable on first reference."CONUS" seems to be used primarily by the American military and the Federal government and those doing business with them.
"OCONUS: Outside Continental United States
Use contiguous, or conterminous, for the 48 states. The continental United States comprises the 48 contiguous, or conterminous, states plus Alaska.
The continental United States includes Alaska. In Alaska context, lower forty-eight or lower 48 may be used. Do not hyphenate lower 48 as an adjective. The term outside may be put in quotes on first reference if ambiguous. To distinguish the 48 states from the 49 or 50, use contiguous or conterminous.
Alaska is a U.S. state in the northwest extremity of the United States West Coast, just across the Bering Strait from Asia. The Canadian province of British Columbia and territory of Yukon border the state to the east and southeast. Its most extreme western part is Attu Island, and it has a maritime border with Russia to the west across the Bering Strait. To the north are the Chukchi and Beaufort seas—southern parts of the Arctic Ocean. The Pacific Ocean lies to the south and southwest. It is the largest U.S. state by area and the seventh largest subnational division in the world. In addition, it is the 3rd least populous and the most sparsely populated of the 50 United States; nevertheless, it is by far the most populous territory located mostly north of the 60th parallel in North America: its population—estimated at 738,432 by the United States Census Bureau in 2015— is more than quadruple the combined populations of Northern Canada and Greenland. Approximately half of Alaska's residents live within the Anchorage metropolitan area. Alaska's economy is dominated by the fishing, natural gas, and oil industries, resources which it has in abundance. Military bases and tourism are also a significant part of the economy.
The Americas comprise the totality of the continents of North and South America. Together, they make up most of the land in Earth's western hemisphere and comprise the New World.
The term "United States", when used in the geographical sense, is the contiguous United States, the state of Alaska, the island state of Hawaii, the five insular territories of Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa, and minor outlying possessions. The United States shares land borders with Canada and Mexico and maritime borders with Russia, Cuba, and the Bahamas in addition to Canada and Mexico. The northern border of the United States with Canada is the world's longest bi-national land border.
In the United States, an administrative or political subdivision of a state is a county, which is a region having specific boundaries and usually some level of governmental authority. The term "county" is used in 48 U.S. states, while Louisiana and Alaska have functionally equivalent subdivisions called parishes and boroughs respectively.
Mainland is a contiguous landmass that is larger and often politically, economically and/or demographically more significant than politically associated remote territories, such as exclaves or oceanic islands situated outside the continental shelf.
United States territory is any extent of region under the sovereign jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States, including all waters and all U.S. naval vessels. The United States asserts sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing its territory. This extent of territory is all the area belonging to, and under the dominion of, the United States federal government for administrative and other purposes. The United States total territory includes a subset of political divisions.
The mean center of the United States population is determined by the United States Census Bureau from the results of each national census. The Bureau defines it as follows:
The concept of the center of population as used by the U.S. Census Bureau is that of a balance point. The center of population is the point at which an imaginary, weightless, rigid, and flat surface representation of the 50 states and the District of Columbia would balance if weights of identical size were placed on it so that each weight represented the location on one person. More specifically, this calculation is called the mean center of population.
Political divisionsof the United States are the various recognized governing entities that together form the United States — states, territories, the District of Columbia, and Indian reservations.
Territories of the United States are sub-national administrative divisions overseen by the federal government. They differ from U.S. states and Native American tribes, which have limited sovereignty. The territories are classified by incorporation and whether they have an "organized" government through an organic act passed by Congress.
The Alaska boundary dispute was a territorial dispute between the United States and the United Kingdom, which then controlled Canada's foreign relations. It was resolved by arbitration in 1903. The dispute existed between the Russian Empire and Britain since 1821, and was inherited by the United States as a consequence of the Alaska Purchase in 1867. The final resolution favored the American position, and Canada did not get an all-Canadian outlet from the Yukon gold fields to the sea. The disappointment and anger in Canada was directed less at the United States, and more at the British government for betraying Canadian interests in favour of healthier Anglo-American relations.
Northern America is the northernmost region of North America. The boundaries may be drawn slightly differently. In one definition, it lies directly north of Middle America. Northern America's land frontier with the rest of North America then coincides with the Mexico–United States border. Geopolitically, according to the United Nations' scheme of geographic regions and subregions, Northern America consists of Bermuda, Canada, Greenland, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, and the United States of America.
Area code 907 covers the state of Alaska, except for the small southeastern community of Hyder, which uses area codes 236, 250 and 778 of neighboring Stewart, British Columbia.
Alaska is one of two U.S. states not bordered by another state; Hawaii is the other. Alaska has more ocean coastline than all of the other U.S. states combined. About 500 miles (800 km) of Canadian territory separate Alaska from Washington State. Alaska is thus an exclave of the United States that is part of the continental U.S. and the U.S. West Coast, but is not part of the contiguous U.S. Alaska is also the only state, other than Hawaii, whose capital city is accessible only via ship or air, because no roads connect Juneau to the rest of the continent.
The boundaries between the continents of Earth are generally a matter of geographical convention. Several slightly different conventions are in use. The number of continents is most commonly considered seven but may range as low as four when the Americas and Afro-Eurasia are each considered a single continent. According to the definition of a continent in the strict sense, an island cannot be part of any continent, but by convention and in practice most major islands are associated with a continent.
The Outlying Areas Senate Presidents Caucus is an informal legislative body created in 2007, by leaders of the Senates of the U.S. states of Alaska and Hawaii, and the US territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Marianas Islands. The organization's inaugural meeting took place in Hawaii's State Capitol on December 11, 2007. It was attended by Hawaii Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, Alaska Senate Majority Leader Gary Stevens, Guam Legislature Acting Speaker Eddie Baza Calvo, Senate President Joseph Mendiola of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands and Puerto Rico Senate President Kenneth McClintock, who convened the meeting.