Location: Western Europe, islands including the northern
one-sixth of the island of Ireland between the North Atlantic Ocean
and the North Sea, northwest of France
Geographic coordinates: 54 00 N, 2 00 W
Map references: Europe
total: 244,820 sq km
land: 241,590 sq km
water: 3,230 sq km
note: includes Rockall and Shetland Islands
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Oregon
total: 360 km
border countries: Ireland 360 km
Coastline: 12,429 km
continental shelf: as defined in continental shelf orders
or in accordance with agreed upon boundaries
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: temperate; moderated by prevailing southwest winds
over the North Atlantic Current; more than one-half of the days
Terrain: mostly rugged hills and low mountains; level to
rolling plains in east and southeast
lowest point: Fenland -4 m
highest point: Ben Nevis 1,343 m
Natural resources: coal, petroleum, natural gas, tin, limestone,
iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, silica, arable land
arable land: 25%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 46%
forests and woodland: 10%
other: 19% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 1,080 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment - current issues: sulfur dioxide emissions from
power plants contribute to air pollution; some rivers polluted by
agricultural wastes; and coastal waters polluted because of large-scale
disposal of sewage at sea
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air
Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds,
Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity,
Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental
Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping,
Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection,
Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands,
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic
Pollutants, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography - note: lies near vital North Atlantic sea lanes;
only 35 km from France and now linked by tunnel under the English
Channel; because of heavily indented coastline, no location is more
than 125 km from tidal waters
The UK is an island nation, separated from continental Europe by
the English Channel, from Scandinavia by the North Sea, and from
neighboring Ireland (including the territory of Northern Ireland)
by the Irish Sea. The largest island, Great Britain, is a little
more than 900 kilometers (about 600 miles) from north to south,
and encompasses England, Scotland, and Wales.
Extensive groups of smaller islands lie off Scotland's north and
west coasts, including the rocky and remote Shetlands, Orkneys,
and Western Isles. The Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, and the Channel
Islands in the English Channel, are semi-autonomous dependencies,
while the Isle of Wight, off the southern coast, enjoys the status
of a county.
The Atlantic Ocean has a significant effect on Britain's climate.
Although the British Isles are as far north in latitude as Labrador
in Canada, they have a mild climate throughout the year. This is
due to the Gulf Stream, a current of warm water that flows up from
the Caribbean past Britain.
Prevailing southwesterly winds moving across this warmer water bring
moisture and moderating temperatures to the British Isles. The surrounding
waters are moderate with temperatures all year-round, making the
UK warmer in winter and cooler in summer than other areas at the
Great Britain's western coast tends to be warmer than the eastern
coast, and the southern regions tend to be warmer than the northern
regions. The annual temperature in the far north of Scotland is
6° C (43° F), and warmer in the southwestern England about 11° C(52°
In general, temperatures are ordinarily around 15° C (60° F) in
the summer and around 5° C (40° F) in the winter. Temperatures rarely
ever exceed 32° C (90° F) or drop below -10° C (14° F) anywhere
in the British Isles. In general,when the temperature dips below
0° C (32° F),frost are rare.
Winds blowing off the Atlantic Ocean bring clouds and large amounts
of moisture to the British Isles. Average annual precipitation is
more than 1000 mm (40 in), varying from the extremes of 5000 mm
(196 in) in the western Highlands of Scotland to less than 500 mm
(20 in) in the driest parts of East Anglia in England.
The western part of Britain receives much more moisture than the
eastern areas. It rains year-round, and in the winter the rain may
change to snow, particularly in the north. It snows infrequently
in the south, and when it does it is likely to be wet, slushy, and
short-lived. Southern Britain has experienced episodes of drought
in recent years, although historically these are rare occurrences.
Some regard these episodes as indicators of global climatic changes.
Britain, the dominant industrial and maritime power of the nineteenth
century, played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy
and in advancing literature and science. The British Empire covered
approximately one-fourth of the earth's surface at its zenith. In
the first half of the twentieth century its strength was seriously
depleted by two world wars.
Since the end of World War II, the British Empire has been dismantled,
and Britain has rebuilt itself into a prosperous, modern European
nation with significant international political, cultural, and economic
influence. As the twentieth century draws to a close, Britain is
debating the degree of its integration with continental Europe.
While a member of the EU, for the time being it is staying out of
the euro system introduced in January 1999. Constitutional reform,
including the House of Lords and the devolution of power to Scotland,
Wales, and Northern Ireland, is an ongoing issue in Great Britain.
United Kingdom is an island country in northwestern Europe. More
than 70 countries are larger in size, and the United Kingdom has
only about 1 per cent of the world's people. It has few natural
Yet for hundreds of years, the United Kingdom has been one of the
world's most important countries. The British started the Industrial
Revolution. They founded the largest empire in history. They have
produced some of the world's greatest scientists, explorers, artists,
and political leaders.
The United Kingdom is really four countries united under one government.
These countries are England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
The nation's official name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland. Most people call the country the United Kingdom,
the UK, Great Britain, or simply Britain. London is the capital
and largest city.