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Basic Geography

Canada occupies the northern half (precisely 41%) of North America. It is bordered to the south by the contiguous United States and to the northwest by Alaska. The country stretches from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west; hence the country's motto. Off the southern coast of Newfoundland lies Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. To the north lies the Arctic Ocean; Greenland is to the northeast. Since 1925, Canada has claimed the portion of the Arctic between 60°W and 141°W longitude ([3] (http://atlas.gc.ca/site/english/maps/historical/territorialevolution/1927/1)); this claim is not universally recognized. The northernmost settlement in Canada (and in the world) is Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert on the northern tip of Ellesmere Island – latitude 82.5°N – just 834 kilometres from the North Pole.

Canada is the world's second-largest country in total area, after Russia. Much of Canada lies in Arctic regions, however, and thus Canada has only the fourth most arable land area behind Russia, China, and the U.S. The population density is 3.5 people per square kilometre, which is among the lowest in the world. While Canada covers a larger area than the U.S., it has only one-ninth its population.

The most densely-populated part of the country is the Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence River Valley in the east. To the north of this region is the broad Canadian Shield, an area of rock scoured clean by the last ice age, thinly soiled, rich in minerals, and dotted with lakes and rivers – over 60% of the world's lakes are in Canada. The Canadian Shield encircles the immense Hudson Bay.

The Canadian Shield extends to the Atlantic coast in Labrador. Newfoundland, North America's easternmost island, is at the mouth of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the world's largest estuary. The Canadian Maritimes protrude eastward from the southern coasts of Quebec. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are divided by the Bay of Fundy, which experiences the world's largest tidal variations. Prince Edward Island is Canada's smallest province.

West of Ontario, the broad, flat Canadian Prairies spread towards the Rocky Mountains, dividing the Prairies and British Columbia.

Northern Canadian vegetation tapers from coniferous forests to tundra and finally to Arctic barrens in the far north. The northern Canadian mainland is ringed with a vast archipelago containing some of the world's largest islands.

Canada has a reputation for cold temperatures but, throughout, experiences four distinct seasons. Winters can be harsh in many regions of the country, with risks of blizzards and ice storms and temperatures reaching lows of -50°C in the far North. Coastal British Columbia is an exception: it enjoys a temperate climate with much milder winters than the rest of the country. Summers range from mild to quite hot, particularly in Central Canada.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Canada".