The United States of America: A Study of the American Commonwealth, Its Natural Resources, People, Industries, Manufactures, Commerce, and Its Work in Literature, Science, Education, and Self-Government

By Nathaniel Southgate Shaler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI. THE PACIFIC COAST.

IF it be true that to diversity of climate and configuration are largely due the differences in race characteristics and conditions, then should the people of our Pacific shores become one of the most heterogeneous of all the communities on earth. Accepting as the eastern boundary of the Pacific coast the main summit of the Rocky Mountain chain, we find that between San Diego in the south where in 1769 was founded, within a few miles of the present Mexican border, the earliest of the California missions, and the populous cities which, here near the northern limit of our possessions, have sprung up almost within a decade; we find in this region, extending over nearly one fourth of the national dormain, almost every conceivable variety of climate and physical structure. Yet in its habitable portions there are no such extremes of heat and cold as occur in other sections of the Union; nor is the coast subject to the hurricanes and cyclones that lay waste at times the settlements of the Western States. To the elevation of our mountain barriers and to the ocean current of the North Pacific are mainly due its exemption from violent tempests and its equality of temperature -- the warmth of its winter and the coolness of its summer months.

From the semitropic conditions in southern California, our climate ranges to the temperate in the plateaus of the mountain States and Territories toward the east, and in the valleys toward the north, merging by degrees, in the far Northwest, into the extremes of a New England clime, until in central Alaska vegetation almost disappears under the rigors of an arctic climate. As a rule, the mean winter temperature of the Pacific coast is from 12° to 15° higher than on the Atlantic slope, at points with similar elevation and latitude, the winter warmth conducing largely to the comfort of our people and the progress and productiveness of our industries. The mean average of San Francisco for July is about 58°, or several degrees below that of London and nearly 20° below that of New York, whose mean for July is almost iden-

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