North America is a continent in Earth’s Northern Hemisphere.
North America can be considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.
North America covers an area of about 24,709,000 km2, about 4.8% of the planet's surface or about 16.5% of its land area.
The continent can be divided into four great regions: the Great Plains - from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian Arctic; the mountainous west - the Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, California and Alaska; the Canadian Shield Plateau in the northeast; and the varied eastern region, including the Appalachian Mountains, the coastal plain along the Atlantic seaboard, and the Florida peninsula. Mexico falls largely in the western region, although the eastern coastal plain does extend south along the Gulf. The highest peak is Denali (6,168 m) in Alaska. Death Valley's Badwater Basin is the lowest point at 86 m below sea level. Its climate and ecologies range from subtropical rainforest to arctic tundra. Temperatures vary greatly from average −40° C to 52° C.
The first people to live in North America were Paleoindians who began to arrive approximately 110,000 to 12,000 BCE. European colonists began to arrive starting in the 16th and 17th centuries, wiping out large numbers of the native populations and beginning an era of European dominance.
After 1492 CE, Europeans began staking claims in various parts of North America. Britain, Spain, and France fought over and established extensive territories in North America. In the late 18th century and beginning of the 19th, several independence movements started across the continent. The British colonies on the North Atlantic coast declared independence in 1776, becoming the United States of America. Canada formed from the unification of northern territories controlled by Britain and France. New Spain declared independence in 1810, becoming the First Mexican Empire. In 1823 the former Captaincy General of Guatemala became the first independent state in Central America, officially changing its name to the United Provinces of Central America. North America played pivotal role in all of Earth’s World Wars. Its cultures were partial inspiration for United Earth’s and the Union’s societies.