9/08/2011

Geography and Relativity in Texas

My mother-in-law, who lives in Virginia, has been calling us frantically over all the coverage Texas wildfires have received in recent tv news shows. This is a dire situation, no doubt, and terrible for the folks whose homes, land, and lives are impacted. It is also hundreds of miles away from where my little family and I live, in a city in north central Texas. My mother-in-law, who has visited us many times, and knows just how big a place Texas is, forgets this when she sees the devastating destruction on the news each night.

Texas is 268,581 square miles. That would be over 173 times the size of Rhode Island. Texas is larger than the 13 smallest states combined. Inside of Texas, you could fit Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Maryland, West Virginia, South Carolina, Maine, Indiana, and still have room for a good chunk of Kentucky. France, for comparison, is only 2/3 the size of The Lone Star State..... and due to that unique "star" shape, some distances on the diagonals are considerable - 1000 miles or more.
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I once lived in New York, and met someone there (in Westchester County) who said to me,"How can you claim Houston is a tropical jungle, when Arizona is a desert?" Well, Phoenix is over 1000 miles from Houston, with the entire state of New Mexico in-between, and there are several different climate and geographical zones between the two. Driving a conservative 70 mph, it's a 5 hour drive from Dallas to Austin or Houston, and a 6 hour drive from Dallas to San Antonio or Lubbock in the Panhandle. From Dallas to the Mexican border is 10 or more hours; to Little Rock Ark is 6 hours, to New Orleans is 9 hours.
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That's a lot of geography......Just to review, look at the map above (these are my personal descriptions, and not guaranteed to be "scientific"):
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Aqua Blue-Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes
Area around Houston, dense jungle -like flora and fauna. Pine forests, oak trees, swamps, flowers year-round. Coastal areas. Rains most months of the year. Rarely freezes in the winter. Summers rarely hotter than low 90's due to 100% humidity. Slight breezes off the ocean. Hurricanes are a yearly feature. Spring starts in Feb and fall does not arrive till Nov.
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Dark Lavender-Coastal Sand Plain
Hotter than Blue area. More palm trees but less overall vegetation, beach grass predominant, soil is more sandy and less stable. Never freezes in winter. Rainy-cool and dry-hot seasons.
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Light green- South Texas Brush Plain
Dryer, because it's inland, than coastal areas, and hotter. Never freezes. Landscape is wild fields with tall grasses interspersed with large oak trees. Some deep creeks flow towards coast. This is "the valley", where most Texas winter produce is grown with the help of irrigation: citrus, vegetables, fruits.
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Light Lavender-Edwards Plateau
Southern desert with mountains. Dry and sparse. Higher elevation freezes in winter. Scrub cactus, hot winds, low humidity. Cools off at night.
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Pale Sky Blue-Trans Pecos
Similar to Edwards Plateau, but not as high in elevation or with as many mountains. Typical desert-like sands. Very hot and dry.
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Yellow-Llano Uplift
The "hill country" area around Austin. Rolling hills, Mediterranean climate. Many water sources (springs, rivers, lakes, etc.) and limestone riddled-ground creates caves. Most Texas wineries, lavender, and gourmet crops are located here.
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Turquoise and White- Oakwoods Prairie, Blacklands Prairie
Prairie means rolling grasslands (gentle low hills) interspersed with creeks and trees. Blacklands means the soil is black thick"gumbo"( heavy and hard to turn but not too clay filled). Blacklands has fewer trees, Oakwoods has more. Both areas have four distinct seasons; hard freezes in winter and hot humid summers. Crops tend to be grains,peaches or cotton. In recent years, gas has been found in the shale under the blacklands.
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Light Turquoise-Piney Woods
Dense eastern type forest, pine trees predominate. Azaleas, magnolias- very similar to deep rural south. Highest rainfall in the state, many lakes, and some marsh/swamplands. Four distinct seasons with winter freezes, summers not as hot due to high vegetation. Oil found here under the ground.
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Tan and Orange - Rolling Plains and High Plains
Higher elevation than prairie areas. Vast sweep of flat land areas with no trees or hills; grasses. Very few water sources. Farmed now mostly in grains. Severely cold winters, strong winds.

2 comments:

  1. Actually, France is only 2/3 the size of Texas. The French are amazed and abashed by this fact, which is one reason it's so much fun to remember and to repeat publicly.

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  2. So I need to know about its Physical Geography, Modern Culture, and Ancient Culture. I need very detailed facts because we need to write 750 word essays for each topic. I hope you can help me. thanks.


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