New England - Physical Environment
Much of the New England is beautiful. The Presidential Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire contains some of the most rugged topography in the eastern United States. The extensive shoreline thrusts out into the Atlantic and meets the ocean's waves with a heavily indented coast that mixes dramatic headlands with many small coves bordered by rocky beaches. Large empty areas, almost totally lacking in settlement, are only hours away from some of the largest cities on the continent.
Most of the New England is a part of the northeastern extension of the Appalachian Uplands. However, the structure of the area bears little surface resemblance to the clearly delineated ridge and valley system of the southern Appalachians.
The Adirondacks, in northern New York, are a southern extension of the Canadian Shield. This broad upland was severely eroded by continental glaciation, so that the surface features are generally more rounded than angular. Although elevations in the Adirondacks are not great, the areal extent of this highland is considerable.
A large upland plateau covers most of New England. This upland is old geologically and has also been heavily eroded by moving water and ice. One result is that elevations throughout the region seldom top 1,500 meters. Widespread scouring by continental glaciers rounded most of the hills and mountains across the plateau. Only where elevations were high enough to remain above the moving ice can one find more rugged mountains.
The two major mountain areas of northern New England are the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The Green Mountains are lower in elevation, less than 1,500 meters at their highest, and their tops are well rounded. The White Mountains, by comparison, rise to 1,900 meters, and their upper slopes are rugged and steep.
Farther south, where the upland plateau has been heavily eroded by flowing water, several isolated peaks stand well apart from the major mountain areas to the north. The largest of them is Mount Monadnock in southern New Hampshire. Monadnock is a name given to all such areas of hard rock that have become low, isolated mountains as the surrounding rocks were removed by water erosion. Mount Katahdin, an equally dramatic monadnock, dominates the landscape of its portion of central Maine.
Although northern New England (with New York) draws character from its mountains, its people find their homes and their livelihoods in the valleys and lowlands. The largest such areas are the Connecticut River Valley between New Hampshire and Vermont, the Lake Champlain Lowland along the northern Vermont-New York border, and the Aroostook Valley in northern Maine. A number of smaller lowlands border the seacoast, and innumerable streams have sliced the plateau throughout the area.
The New England is a place where polar, continental, and maritime weather systems meet, and the result is a climate that is seldom hot, often cold, and usually damp. Because of its location on the eastern side of America, the wind systems tend to push continental conditions into the area and to limit the maritime impact on the location. The substantial climatic difference between coast and interior is further increased by higher inland elevations.
The Labrador Current that flows southward along the New England is cold. Even in late summer, only the most intrepid swimmers are willing to dip themselves into its waters for more than a short time. Still, the climatic conditions along the coast are moderated substantially by proximity to the water. The growing season near the coast is as much as 70 days longer than the interior average of 120 days. Average midwinter temperatures at coastal sites are often 3C to 6C higher than at nearby interior locations. Midsummer temperatures, in contrast, are slightly higher in the interior.
The maritime influence brings frequent cloud cover and fog, particularly along the southern coastline, which serve to cool temperatures further during the summer. It is consequently difficult to grow crops that require summer heat and sunlight.
Almost all areas of the region receive substantial precipitation, usually between 100 and 150 centimeters annually. Precipitation is usually scattered evenly throughout the year. Snowfall is generally substantial, with most places receiving between 25 and 50 percent of their total moisture in the form of snow. Most interior locations average at least 250 centimeters of snow annually. Winter snowcover near the coast is sporadic, with frequent thaws and bare ground, but snow covers the ground inland for three to five months each winter.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|