Physical Geography

New YorkNew York is a state in the northeastern United States.

New York is a land of low mountains, hilly plateaus, and numerous lowlands consisting mainly of lake plains and river valleys. During the last Ice Age, glaciers advanced and retreated across the state, scouring the land and leaving widespread glacial debris. There are seven major regions.

The Adirondack Mountains, in the north, an ancient section of the Appalachians, cover about a fourth of the state. Geologically, they are linked to the Canadian Shield and contain some of the oldest rocks in North America. Once high and rugged, the Adirondacks have been lowered and smoothed by the erosive forces of running water, wind, and glacial ice. Characteristic of this scenic region are rounded, forest-clad peaks, sparkling lakes and streams, and primitive wilderness areas. In the northeast, Mount Marcy rises to a height of 5,344 feet (1,629 m), New York's highest point.

The Appalachian Plateau, also known as the Allegheny Plateau, spans nearly all of southern New York, or almost a third of the state. It is an eroded tableland that varies from hilly to rough. Steep escarpments mark part of the plateau's eastern edge; deep valleys occur within the plateau. The highest, and possibly the roughest, part consists of the Catskill Mountains, in the east. Here, forested summits rise to elevations of about 3,000 to 4,200 feet (915 to 1,280 m).

The Hudson Highlands and the Taconic Mountains, in the southeastern part of the state, make up most of the remaining mountainous areas of New York. Geologically, they are southern extensions of a highland situated mainly in New England. At Bear Mountain, between Newburgh and Peekskill, a scenic gorge of the Hudson River cuts through the highlands.

The Taconic Mountains jut northward from the Hudson Highlands and extend along part of New York's border with Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Berlin Mountain, east of Troy, reaches a height of almost 2,800 feet (853 m).

The Atlantic Coastal Plain extends from Staten Island, a borough of New York City, northeastward through Long Island. It is part of the low, almost level coastal plain that extends along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to the southern tip of Florida. Small hills of glacial origin dot northern Long Island; beaches, offshore bars, and small islands fringe much of the coast.

The Hudson and Mohawk Valleys. The Hudson Valley is a lowland corridor running north-south through the state, north of New York City. It is part of the Great Valley of the Appalachians and includes the lowlands around Lake George and Lake Champlain. The Mohawk Valley, extending westward from the Hudson Valley to about Rome, is a fairly broad lowland between the Adirondacks and the Appalachian Plateau. Because it provides the only lowland route from the Atlantic Ocean through the Appalachians, the Mohawk Valley has long been an important transportation route.

The Great Lakes Plain, which adjoins Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, is part of the vast Central Lowlands of the United States. The land was heavily glaciated during the last Ice Age and varies from flat to gently rolling. Some of it is poorly drained. Prominent glacial features include drumlins (elongated hills) and eskers (twisting ridges).

The St. Lawrence Valley begins at Lake Ontario and curves north and east to the Canadian border. It is a narrow lowland with terrain similar to the Great Lakes Plain, except near the Thousand Islands. Here, ancient rocks similar to those in the Adirondacks form hundreds of islands, divided between Ontario and New York.

Interesting facts about New York
"Uncle Sam," the national symbol of the United States, originated in Troy. Samuel Wilson had a meat-packing business in Troy when the War of 1812 broke out. His company received a large contract to supply meat for United States troops. These shipments went out in barrels marked "U.S." for United States. However, the abbreviation was not yet common and people asked what it meant. They were jokingly told that U.S. stood for Uncle Sam. The nickname eventually came to personify the nation. In 1961, Congress adopted a resolution recognizing Samuel Wilson as the person who inspired the Uncle Sam symbol.
Radio City Music Hall in New York City is the world's largest indoor theater. The hall, home of the famous dancing Rockettes, has a seating capacity of 5,900.
The first escalator was manufactured by the Otis Elevator Company of New York City in 1899. It was exhibited at the Paris Exposition in 1900. In 1901, the escalator was returned to the United States and installed in a building in Philadelphia.
License plates on automobiles began to be used in New York in 1901. New York was the first U.S. state to require automobile registration. Owners had to supply their own license "plates," which were often made of leather with metal characters.
New York'sNew York's state tree is the sugar maple.

The rivers of New York drain to the Atlantic through five major basins: the Hudson, St. Lawrence-Great Lakes, Delaware, Susquehanna, and Allegheny basins. The Hudson Basin, drained mainly by the Hudson and its chief tributary, the Mohawk, is of major importance. From Albany to New York City, some 140 miles (225 km), the Hudson is navigable to oceangoing ships. The St. Lawrence-Great Lakes Basin is the largest drainage basin in the state. Its rivers include the Niagara, Genesee, Oswego, Black, and Raquette rivers. The Delaware and Susquehanna rivers have their sources within the state, and they, together with the Allegheny and various tributaries, drain most of the southern part of the state.

Waterfalls and cascades are numerous. By volume of water carried, thundering Niagara Falls is one of the largest waterfalls in the world. Taughannock Falls, near Cayuga Lake, plunges 215 feet (66 m)—22 feet (7 m) more than the American Falls at Niagara. There are also cascades and falls at Ausable Chasm in the Adirondacks.

Hundreds of lakes, mostly of glacial origin, lend beauty to the state. Lake Champlain—shared by New York, Vermont, and Quebec—and Lake George are in the northeast. Nearby are the many lakes of the Adirondacks, including Lake Placid and the Saranac Lakes. The long, narrow Finger Lakes edge the Appalachian Plateau. Largest of these are Cayuga and Seneca lakes.

Between Rome and Syracuse is Oneida Lake, the largest body of water entirely within the state. In New York's southwest corner is Chautauqua Lake. Among large, man-made reservoirs are Sacandaga Reservoir, on the south edge of the Adirondacks, and Ashokan Reservoir, in the Catskills.

New York'sNew York's state flower is the rose.

New York has a moist continental climate similar to that of the other northeastern states. It is marked by cold winters and warm summers; highly changeable weather; and ample precipitation throughout the year. Variations, however, occur within the state. In the southeast, especially along the coast, the tempering effects of the Atlantic Ocean are felt. The climate of the mountains and higher parts of the Appalachian Plateau is influenced by increased elevation and northerly location. This is particularly true in the Adirondacks, where summers are cool and winters rigorous. Also important in affecting local conditions are large lakes, especially Lakes Erie and Ontario, where summers are cooler and winters snowier than elsewhere in the state.

Average January temperatures range from 33° F. (1° C.) on Long Island to 15° F. (-9° C.) in several valleys of the Adirondacks. Temperatures below 0° F. (-18° C.) are rare along the coast, but occur in other parts of the state. July temperatures average from about 64° F. (18° C.) in parts of the Adirondacks to around 75° F. (24° C.) along the coast. During summer, daytime temperatures occasionally rise to more than 90° F. (32° C.), but rarely above 100° F. (38° C.).

Annual precipitation is roughly 30 to 50 inches (760 to 1,270 mm) throughout most of the state. Somewhat larger amounts fall in parts of the Catskills and the Adirondack Mountains. May through September is generally the wettest time of the year. Snowfall is extremely variable. Long Island receives only 20 inches (510 mm) a year, while most of the elevated areas receive well over five times that much. Some weather stations in the snow belt east of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario have reported as much as 300 inches (7,620 mm).

The frost-free, or growing, season lasts from approximately 100 days in the heart of the Adirondacks to as much as 220 days on Long Island. Hurricanes and tropical storms, tornadoes, and blizzards occasionally strike the state.