North America is the third largest continent after Asia and Africa. It covers a total land area of over 24 million square kilometres. There is the Arctic Ocean to the north and the South Pacific Ocean to the south. The western coast lies to the North Pacific Ocean and the eastern coast lies to the North Atlantic Ocean.
The continent is shaped like a giant triangle, narrowing at the base to form a thin strip of land that joins the continent to South America. This strip contains the countries of Central America. The North American continent also includes Greenland and many islands dotted across the Caribbean Sea.
The far north part of the continent extends well above the Arctic Circle. It is a frozen, plantless land. The continent’s highest mountain, Mt Mc- Kinley, lies to the north in Alaska. The extreme south has both dry deserts and lush rain-forests, with tropical vegetation covering many of Caribbean islands. In between lie the forests of Canada and the Northern United States of America. To the east, there are five Great Lakes (Superior, Huron, Erie, Ontario, and Michigan) that form the water drainage system of the continent. The most North American deserts lie in Northern Mexico. It includes the Great Basin, the Major Desert and Death Valley (driest place) and the Sonoran Desert.
There is a wide range of climates on this continent to support numerous types of plants and animals. Only the far north is too cold to flourish plant life, although polar bears, arctic wolves and various rodents survive in the snowy surroundings. Thick forests have covered much of Canada and the northern USA. Animals such as racoons and skunks are unique to the North American woodlands.
The vast area of the North American continent includes countries with various kinds of culture, language, and economies. However, one thing is common — they were controlled by a European power at one time. The countries of the North American mainland are now independent in a Federal system, but European links continue on some islands. Greenland, which is the largest island in the world, is still officially part of Denmark, and the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon are under the French. Moreover, Britain, France and the Netherlands lay claim to a number of the Caribbean islands.
The capital city of the USA is Washington and the White House in the capital city is the official residence of the President of the USA. The United States of America (USA) has the most developed economy in the world. Canada has the next strongest economy, followed by Mexico in North America. In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement came into operation between these three countries. This created the world’s largest area of free trade.