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Washingtonconstituent state of the United States of America. Lying at the northwestern corner of the 48 conterminous states, it is bounded by the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north, the U. The capital is Olympialocated at the southern end of Puget Sound in the western part of the state.
Washington cities have sister cities in several countries, and their professional and trade associations commonly include Canadian members. The terrain and climate of Washington divide the state into a rainy western third and a drier eastern two-thirds in the rain shadow of the Cascade Range.
Western Washington industries depend on agriculture, forests, and fisheries and imported raw materials, whereas eastern Washington is mainly agricultural, producing wheat, irrigated crops, and livestock. Most of the people live in the highly urbanized area around Puget Sound that includes SeattleEverettTacomaand other cities. Area 71, square milessquare km.
Washington has seven physiographic regions.
Dense rainforests extend along the western slopes of the rugged Olympic Mountainswhich rise to 7, feet 2, metres on Mount Olympus. Gentle forested slopes descend to an indented Pacific coastline and, north and east of the hills, to the fertile Chehalis and Cowlitz valleys. Deep waters and fine harbours in Puget Soundtogether with relatively flat terrain along its shores, favour the densest population and greatest commercial development in the state. Its chain of volcanic peaks includes 14,foot 4,metre Mount Rainierthe fifth highest peak in the conterminous United States.
Mount St. The highest peaks of the Cascades have permanent glaciers. Occupying most of central Washington, the Columbia basin is surrounded by the Cascades to the west, the Okanogan Highlands to the north, uplands to Idaho to the east, and the Blue Mountains to the southeast.
It is a basalt plateau lying at an elevation of about 1, to 2, feet to metres and is drained by the Columbia River and its main tributary, the Snake. Glaciation, flooding, and wind have shaped diverse landforms, although the general appearance is that of a large interior plain. The Okanogan Highlands, in the northeast, are an extension of the Rocky Mountains.
Their north-south ranges, with summits that rise to more than 7, feet 2, metresare separated by glaciated trenches. The Blue Mountainswhich extend into Washington from Oregon, consist of uplifted plateaus and ranges in the southeastern corner of the state. Gentle slopes and broad valleys descend from 6,foot 1,metre heights to the Columbia basin. The most productive soils in Washington are those of the river floodplains along with the weathered basalts and windblown silts of the Columbia basin.
In wetter areas acidic soils support forests, but the driest regions east of the Cascades have sparse plant life and require irrigation for agriculture. The fine-textured sandy soils of the Big Bend and Palouse areas are susceptible to erosion by wind and water.
Topsoil loss through the use of mechanized agriculture has emerged as a major environmental problem. Prevailing westerly winds and the influence of the Pacific Ocean dominate the climate of Washington, although the Cascades barrier creates ificant differences between western and eastern regions.
The west has milder conditions than any other part of the United States at the same latitudes. Annual precipitation on the Pacific side of the Olympic Peninsula exceeds inches 3, mmbut places on the northwest of the peninsula receive less than 20 inches mm a year. Typical annual totals in the Puget Sound Lowland range between 30 and 40 inches and 1, mm.
The Cascades receive more than inches 2, mm of precipitation annually. East of the Cascade Range, seasonal temperature variations are greater, but the Rocky Mountains shield the region to some extent from cold Canadian air masses in winter.
Annual precipitation is about 17 inches mm in Spokane but less than 8 inches mm in the lower Yakima valley. Throughout the state precipitation is greatest in the cooler months, when a succession of cyclonic storms move inland from the northern Pacific, sometimes with gale-force winds. Rain falls on a great of days even in areas that are relatively arid, such as in the west.
The occasional outbreaks of continental air from the north or northeast may reach the outer coast, bringing freezing conditions in winter or hot, dry air that increases the danger of forest fires in summer. Fast Facts. Videos Images. Additional Info.
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Facebook Twitter. Give Feedback External Websites. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article requires. External Websites. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. Seal of Washington. See all media. Also Known As: Evergreen State Show more Capital: Olympia Show more Population: 6,; est.
Show more Governor: Jay Inslee Democrat Show more Date Of Admission: Nov. Show more. Full Article. Learn more about the state of Washington—the only state named after a U. Olympic Mountains, near Port Orchard, Wash. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content.
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