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For other uses, see California (disambiguation).
State of California
Flag of California State seal of California
Flag Seal
Nickname(s): The Golden State
Motto(s): Eureka[1]
State song(s): "I Love You, California"
Map of the United States with California highlighted
Official language English
Spoken languages

Language spoken at home[2]

English 58.1%
Spanish: 28.8%
Chinese: 3.0%
Tagalog: 2.2%
Other: 7.9%

Demonym Californian
Capital Sacramento
Largest city Los Angeles
Largest metro Greater Los Angeles
Area Ranked 3rd
• Total 163,696 sq mi
(423,970 km2)
• Width 250 miles (400 km)
• Length 770 miles (1,240 km)
• % water 4.7
• Latitude 32°32′ N to 42° N
• Longitude 114°8′ W to 124°26′ W
Population Ranked 1st
• Total 39,536,653 (2017 est.)[3]
• Density 240/sq mi (92.6/km2)
Ranked 11th
• Median household income $66,636 (2016)[4] (13th)
• Highest point Mount Whitney[5][6][7][8]
14,505 ft (4,421.0 m)
• Mean 2,900 ft (880 m)
• Lowest point Badwater Basin[9]
−279 ft (−85.0 m)
Before statehood Alta California
Admission to Union September 9, 1850 (31st)
Governor Jerry Brown (D)
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (D)
Legislature California State Legislature
• Upper house California State Senate
• Lower house California State Assembly
U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D)
Kamala Harris (D)
U.S. House delegation 39 Democrats
14 Republicans (list)
Time zones Pacific Time Zone
• Standard time PST (UTC−8)
• Summer time (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
ISO 3166 US-CA
Abbreviations CA, Calif., Cal.
California state symbols

California is a U.S. state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.5 million residents, California is the most populous state in the United States and the third largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and fifth-most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 8.8 million residents respectively.[11] Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second-most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County; its largest county by area, San Bernardino County; and its fifth most densely populated county, San Francisco.

California's $2.8 trillion economy is larger than that of any other state.[12] If it were a country, California would be the 5th largest economy in the world (larger than the UK or France),[13] and the 36th most populous as of 2017.[14] The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and third-largest urban economies ($1.2 trillion and $821 billion respectively as of 2016), after the New York City metropolitan area.[15] The San Francisco Bay Area PSA had the nation's highest GDP per capita in 2016 (~$94,000),[16] and is home to four of the world's ten largest companies by market capitalization[17] and four of the world's ten richest people.[18]

California is considered a global trendsetter in popular culture, innovation, and politics. It is considered the origin of the American film industry, the hippie counterculture, the Internet,[19] and the personal computer, among others. The San Francisco Bay Area and the Greater Los Angeles Area are widely seen as the centers of the global technology and entertainment industries, respectively. California has a very diverse economy: 58% of the state's economy is centered on finance, government, real estate services, technology, and professional, scientific and technical business services.[20] Although it accounts for only 1.5% of the state's economy,[20] California's agriculture industry has the highest output of any U.S. state.[21][22][23][24]

California is bordered by Oregon to the north, Nevada and Arizona to the east, and the Mexican state of Baja California to the south. The state's diverse geography ranges from the Pacific Coast in the west to the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the east, and from the redwood–Douglas fir forests in the northwest to the Mojave Desert in the southeast. The Central Valley, a major agricultural area, dominates the state's center. Though California is well-known for its warm Mediterranean climate, the large size of the state results in climates that vary from moist temperate rainforest in the north to arid desert in the interior, as well as snowy alpine in the mountains.

What is now California was first settled by various Native Californian tribes before being explored by a number of European expeditions during the 16th and 17th centuries. The Spanish Empire then claimed it as part of Alta California in their New Spain colony. The area became a part of Mexico in 1821 following its successful war for independence but was ceded to the United States in 1848 after the Mexican–American War. The western portion of Alta California then was organized and admitted as the 31st state on September 9, 1850. The California Gold Rush starting in 1848 led to dramatic social and demographic changes, with large-scale emigration from the east and abroad with an accompanying economic boom.

1 Etymology
2 History
2.1 The first inhabitants
2.2 Colonial and Spanish periods
2.3 California under Mexican rule
2.4 California Republic and American invasion
2.5 Early American statehood period
2.6 20th century
3 Geography
3.1 Climate
3.2 Ecology
3.3 Flora and fauna
3.4 Rivers
3.5 Regions
4 Demography
4.1 Population
4.2 Cities and towns
4.3 National origins
4.4 Languages
5 Culture
5.1 Religion
5.2 Sports
5.3 Education
5.4 Twin region
6 Economy
6.1 State finances
7 Infrastructure
7.1 Energy
7.2 Transportation
7.3 Water
8 Government and politics
8.1 State government
8.2 Federal representation
8.3 Armed forces
8.4 Ideology
9 See also
10 Notes
11 References
11.1 Works cited
12 Further reading
13 External links

Main articles: Etymology of California and Island of California

The word California originally referred to the Baja California Peninsula of Mexico; it was later[when?] extended to the entire region composed of the current United States states of California, Nevada, and Utah, and parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming.[25]

Spanish explorer Francisco de Ulloa's initial surveys of the Baja California Peninsula exploring the western coast of North America led him to believe that it was an island rather than part of the larger continent.[26] The name likely derived from the mythical island California in the fictional story of Queen Calafia, as recorded in a 1510 work The Adventures of Esplandián by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo.[27] This work was the fifth in a popular Spanish chivalric romance series that began with Amadis de Gaula.[28][29][30][31] Queen Calafia's kingdom was said to be a remote land rich in gold and pearls, inhabited by beautiful black women who wore gold armor and lived like Amazons, as well as griffins and other strange beasts.[27][32][33] In the fictional paradise, the ruler Queen Calafia fought alongside Muslims and her name may have been chosen to echo the title of a Muslim leader, the Caliph. It's possible the name California was meant to imply the island was a Caliphate.[27][34]

Know ye that at the right hand of the Indies there is an island called California, very close to that part of the Terrestrial Paradise, which was inhabited by black women without a single man among them, and they lived in the manner of Amazons. They were robust of body with strong passionate hearts and great virtue. The island itself is one of the wildest in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks.
— Chapter CLVII of The Adventures of Esplandián[35]

The conventional wisdom that California was an island, with maps drawn to reflect this belief, lasted as late as the 18th century.[36]

Shortened forms of the state's name include CA, Cal., Calif., and US-CA.
Main article: History of California
A map of California tribal groups and languages at the time of European contact.
The first inhabitants

Settled by successive waves of arrivals during the last 10,000 years, California was one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas in pre-Columbian North America. Various estimates of the native population range from 100,000 to 300,000.[37] The Indigenous peoples of California included more than 70 distinct groups of Native Americans, ranging from large, settled populations living on the coast to groups in the interior. California groups also were diverse in their political organization with bands, tribes, villages, and on the resource-rich coasts, large chiefdoms, such as the Chumash, Pomo and Salinan. Trade, intermarriage and military alliances fostered many social and economic relationships among the diverse groups.
Colonial and Spanish periods
The coat of arms granted to The Californias by Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza.
Mission San Diego de Alcalá drawn as it was in 1848. Established in 1769, it was the first of the California Missions.
The Russian Empire established their largest settlement in California at Fort Ross in 1812

The first European effort to explore the coast as far north as the Russian River was a Spanish sailing expedition, led by Portuguese captain Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, in 1542. Some 37 years later English explorer Francis Drake also explored and claimed an undefined portion of the California coast in 1579. Spanish traders made unintended visits with the Manila galleons on their return trips from the Philippines beginning in 1565.[38] The first Asians to set foot on what would be the United States occurred in 1587, when Filipino sailors arrived in Spanish ships at Morro Bay.[39] Sebastián Vizcaíno explored and mapped the coast of California in 1602 for New Spain.

Despite the on-the-ground explorations of California in the 16th century, Rodríguez's idea of California as an island persisted. That depiction appeared on many European maps well into the 18th century.[40]

After the Portolà expedition of 1769–70, Spanish missionaries began setting up 21 California Missions on or near the coast of Alta (Upper) California, beginning in San Diego. During the same period, Spanish military forces built several forts (presidios) and three small towns (pueblos). The San Francisco Mission grew into the city of San Francisco, and two of the pueblos grew into the cities of Los Angeles and San Jose. Several other smaller cities and towns also sprang up surrounding the various Spanish missions and pueblos, which remain to this day.

The Spanish colonization began the genocide of the indigenous Californian peoples, decimating their numbers through epidemics of various diseases for which the indigenous peoples had no natural immunity, such as measles and diphtheria.[41] The establishment of the Spanish systems of government and social structure, which the Spanish settlers had brought with them, also technologically and culturally overwhelmed the societies of the earlier indigenous peoples.

During this same period, Russian ships also explored along the California coast and in 1812 established a trading post at Fort Ross. Russia's early 19th-century coastal settlements in California were positioned just north of the northernmost edge of the area of Spanish settlement in San Francisco Bay, and were the southernmost Russian settlements in North America. The Russian settlements associated with Fort Ross were spread over an area stretching from Point Arena to Tomales Bay.[42]
California under Mexican rule
Map showing Alta California in 1838 when it was a sparsely populated Mexican province.[43]

In 1821, the Mexican War of Independence gave Mexico (including California) independence from Spain. For the next 25 years, Alta California remained as a remote, sparsely populated, northwestern administrative district of the newly independent country of Mexico.

Cattle ranches, or ranchos, emerged as the dominant institutions of Mexican California. Soon after Mexican independence from Spain, the chain of missions became the property of the Mexican government and was secularized by 1834.[44] The ranchos developed under ownership by Californios (Spanish-speaking Californians) who had received land grants, and traded cowhides and tallow with Boston merchants.

From the 1820s, trappers and settlers from the United States and the future Canada arrived in Northern California. These new arrivals used the Siskiyou Trail, California Trail, Oregon Trail and Old Spanish Trail to cross the rugged mountains and harsh deserts in and surrounding California.

The early government of the newly independent Mexico was highly unstable, and in a reflection of this, from 1831 onwards, California also experienced a series of armed disputes, both between regional areas, and also revolts against the central Mexican government.[45] During this tumultuous political period Juan Bautista Alvarado was able to secure the governorship from 1836 - 1842.[46] The military action which first brought Alvarado to power had momentarily declared California to be an independent state, and had been aided by American and British residents of California,[47] including Isaac Graham.[48] In 1840, one hundred of those residents who did not have passports were arrested, leading to the Graham affair.[47]

One of the largest ranchers in California was John Marsh. After failing to obtain justice against squatters on his land from the Mexican courts, he determined that California should become part of the United States. Marsh conducted a letter-writing campaign espousing the California climate, soil and other reasons to settle there, as well as the best route to follow, which became known as "Marsh's route." His letters were read, reread, passed around, and printed in newspapers throughout the country, and started the first wagon trains rolling to California.[49] He invited immigrants to stay on his ranch until they could get settled, and assisted in their obtaining passports.[50]

After ushering in the period of organized emigration to California, Marsh helped end the rule of the last Mexican governor of California, thereby paving the way to California's ultimate acquisition by the United States.[51]
California Republic and American invasion
The original of Todd's Bear Flag, photographed in 1890

In 1846, a group of American settlers in and around Sonoma rebelled against Mexican rule during the Bear Flag Revolt. Afterwards, rebels raised the Bear Flag (featuring a bear, a star, a red stripe and the words "California Republic") at Sonoma. The Republic's only president was William B. Ide,[52] who played a pivotal role during the Bear Flag Revolt. This revolt by American settlers served as a prelude to the later American military invasion of California, and was closely coordinated with nearby American military commanders.

The California Republic was short lived;[53] the same year marked the outbreak of the Mexican–American War (1846–48).[54] When Commodore John D. Sloat of the United States Navy sailed into Monterey Bay and began the military occupation of California by the United States, Northern California capitulated in less than a month to the United States forces.[55] After a series of defensive battles in Southern California, the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed by the Californios on January 13, 1847, securing American control in California.[56]
Early American statehood period
Miners during the California Gold Rush
California is Admitted to the Union under the Compromise of 1850.
Merchant ships fill San Francisco harbor; c. 1850-51.
Guidon of the California 100 Company (Company A) during the Civil War
Depiction of the 1869 completion of the first transcontinental railway. The Last Spike (1881) by Thomas Hill.

Following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (February 2, 1848) that ended the war, the westernmost portion of the old Mexican territory of Alta California soon became the American state of California, and the remainder of the old territory was then subdivided into the new American Territories of Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Utah. The lightly populated and arid lower region of old Baja California remained as a part of Mexico. In 1846, the total settler population of the western part of the old Alta California had been estimated to be no more than 8,000, plus about 100,000 Native Americans, down from about 300,000 before Hispanic settlement in 1769.[57]

In 1848, only one week before the official American annexation of the area, gold was discovered in California, this being an event which was to forever alter both the state's demographics and its finances. Soon afterward, a massive influx of immigration into the area resulted, as prospectors and miners arrived by the thousands. The population burgeoned with United States citizens, Europeans, Chinese and other immigrants during the great California Gold Rush. By the time of California's application to the US Congress for statehood in 1850, the settler population of California had multiplied to 100,000. By 1854 over 300,000 settlers had come.[58] Between 1847 and 1870, the population of San Francisco increased from 500 to 150,000.[59] California was suddenly no longer a sparsely populated backwater, but seemingly overnight it had grown into a major US population center.

The seat of government for California under Spanish and later Mexican rule had been located in Monterey from 1777 until 1845.[44] Pio Pico, last Mexican governor of Alta California, had briefly moved the capital to Los Angeles in 1845. The United States consulate had also been located in Monterey, under consul Thomas O. Larkin.

In 1849, a state Constitutional Convention was first held in Monterey. Among the first tasks of the Convention was a decision on a location for the new state capital. The first full legislative sessions were held in San Jose (1850–1851). Subsequent locations included Vallejo (1852–1853), and nearby Benicia (1853–1854); these locations eventually proved to be inadequate as well. The capital has been located in Sacramento since 1854[60] with only a short break in 1862 when legislative sessions were held in San Francisco due to flooding in Sacramento.

Once the state's Constitutional Convention had finalized its state constitution, it applied to the US Congress for admission to statehood. On September 9, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850, California was officially admitted into the United States as an undivided free state. Its status as a 'free state' prevented the expansion of slavery to the Pacific Coast, which was a foremost concern for the pre-Civil War US Congress. Within the state of California, Sep 9 remains as an annually celebrated legal holiday known as California Admission Day.

During the American Civil War (1861–1865), California was able to send gold shipments eastwards to Washington in support of the Union cause;[61] however, due to the existence of a large contingent of pro-South sympathizers within the state, the state was not able to muster any full military regiments to send eastwards to officially serve in the Union war effort. Still, several smaller military units within the Union army were unofficially associated with the state of California, such as the "California 100 Company", due to a majority of their members being from California.

At the time of California's admission into the Union, travel between California and the rest of the continental United States had been a time consuming and dangerous feat. Nineteen years afterwards, in 1869, shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War, a more direct connection was developed with the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. California was then easy to reach.

Much of the state was extremely well suited to fruit cultivation and agriculture in general. Vast expanses of wheat, other cereal crops, vegetable crops, cotton, and nut and fruit trees were grown (including oranges in Southern California), and the foundation was laid for the state's prodigious agricultural production in the Central Valley and elsewhere.
Indigenous peoples under early American administration
Group of California indigenous people.

Under earlier Spanish and Mexican rule, California's original native population had precipitously declined, above all, from Eurasian diseases to which the indigenous people of California had not yet developed a natural immunity.[62] Under its new American administration, California's harsh governmental policies towards its own indigenous people did not improve. As in other American states, many of the native inhabitants were soon forcibly removed from their lands by incoming American settlers such as miners, ranchers, and farmers. Although California had entered the American union as a free state, the "loitering or orphaned Indians" were de facto enslaved by their new Anglo-American masters under the 1853 Act for the Government and Protection of Indians.[63] There were also massacres in which hundreds of indigenous people were killed.

Between 1850 and 1860, the California state government paid around 1.5 million dollars (some 250,000 of which was reimbursed by the federal government)[64] to hire militias whose purpose was to protect settlers from the indigenous populations. In later decades, the native population was placed in reservations and rancherias, which were often small and isolated and without enough natural resources or funding from the government to sustain the populations living on them.[63] As a result, the rise of California was a calamity for the native inhabitants. Several scholars and Native American activists, including Benjamin Madley and Ed Castillo, have described the actions of the California government as a genocide.[65]
20th century
Hollywood film studios, 1922
The "Birthplace of Silicon Valley" garage, where Stanford University graduates William Hewlett and David Packard developed their first product in the 1930s

Migration to California accelerated during the early 20th century with the completion of major transcontinental highways like the Lincoln Highway and Route 66. In the period from 1900 to 1965, the population grew from fewer than one million to the greatest in the Union. In 1940, the Census Bureau reported California's population as 6.0% Hispanic, 2.4% Asian, and 89.5% non-Hispanic white.[66]

To meet the population's needs, major engineering feats like the California and Los Angeles Aqueducts; the Oroville and Shasta Dams; and the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges were built across the state. The state government also adopted the California Master Plan for Higher Education in 1960 to develop a highly efficient system of public education.

Meanwhile, attracted to the mild Mediterranean climate, cheap land, and the state's wide variety of geography, filmmakers established the studio system in Hollywood in the 1920s. California manufactured 8.7 percent of total United States military armaments produced during World War II, ranking third (behind New York and Michigan) among the 48 states.[67] California however easily ranked first in production of military ships during the war (transport, cargo, [merchant ships] such as Liberty ships, Victory ships, and warships) at drydock facilities in San Diego, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area.[68][69][70][71] After World War II, California's economy greatly expanded due to strong aerospace and defense industries,[72] whose size decreased following the end of the Cold War.[72][73] Stanford University and its Dean of Engineering Frederick Terman began encouraging faculty and graduates to stay in California instead of leaving the state, and develop a high-tech region in the area now known as Silicon Valley.[74] As a result of these efforts, California is regarded as a world center of the entertainment and music industries, of technology, engineering, and the aerospace industry, and as the United States center of agricultural production.[75] Just before the Dot Com Bust, California had the fifth-largest economy in the world among nations.[76] Yet since 1991, and starting in the late 1980s in Southern California, California has seen a net loss of domestic migrants in most years. This is often referred to by the media as the California exodus.[77]

During the 20th century, two great disasters happened in California. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and 1928 St. Francis Dam flood remain the deadliest in U.S history.[78]
Main article: Geography of California
A topographic map of California
A forest of redwood trees in Redwood National Park
Köppen climate types in California
Mount Shasta
Aerial view of the California Central Valley
Big Sur coast, south of Monterey at Bixby Bridge
Yosemite National Park
Snow on the Sierra Nevada in eastern California
Death Valley, in the Mojave Desert
Potato Harbor, named for its distinctive ovular and bumpy shape,[79] on Santa Cruz Island
The coastline along Laguna Beach in Southern California
Cylindropuntia bigelovii in the Joshua Tree National Park
Mojave National Preserve
The Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta viewed from above, with the Sacramento River above and San Joaquin River below

California is the 3rd largest state in the United States in area, after Alaska and Texas.[80] California is often geographically bisected into two regions, Southern California, comprising the 10 southernmost counties,[81][82] and Northern California, comprising the 48 northernmost counties.[83][84] It is bordered by Oregon to the north, Nevada to the east and northeast, Arizona to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west and it shares an international border with the Mexican state of Baja California to the south (with which it makes up part of The Californias region of North America, alongside Baja California Sur).

In the middle of the state lies the California Central Valley, bounded by the Sierra Nevada in the east, the coastal mountain ranges in the west, the Cascade Range to the north and by the Tehachapi Mountains in the south. The Central Valley is California's productive agricultural heartland.

Divided in two by the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the northern portion, the Sacramento Valley serves as the watershed of the Sacramento River, while the southern portion, the San Joaquin Valley is the watershed for the San Joaquin River. Both valleys derive their names from the rivers that flow through them. With dredging, the Sacramento and the San Joaquin Rivers have remained deep enough for several inland cities to be seaports.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is a critical water supply hub for the state. Water is diverted from the delta and through an extensive network of pumps and canals that traverse nearly the length of the state, to the Central Valley and the State Water Projects and other needs. Water from the Delta provides drinking water for nearly 23 million people, almost two-thirds of the state's population as well as water for farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.

Suisun Bay lies at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. The water is drained by the Carquinez Strait, which flows into San Pablo Bay, a northern extension of San Francisco Bay, which then connects to the Pacific Ocean via the Golden Gate strait.

The Channel Islands are located off the Southern coast, while the Farallon Islands lie west of San Francisco.

The Sierra Nevada (Spanish for "snowy range") includes the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states, Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet (4,421 m).[5][6][7] The range embraces Yosemite Valley, famous for its glacially carved domes, and Sequoia National Park, home to the giant sequoia trees, the largest living organisms on Earth, and the deep freshwater lake, Lake Tahoe, the largest lake in the state by volume.

To the east of the Sierra Nevada are Owens Valley and Mono Lake, an essential migratory bird habitat. In the western part of the state is Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake by area entirely in California. Though Lake Tahoe is larger, it is divided by the California/Nevada border. The Sierra Nevada falls to Arctic temperatures in winter and has several dozen small glaciers, including Palisade Glacier, the southernmost glacier in the United States.

About 45 percent of the state's total surface area is covered by forests,[85] and California's diversity of pine species is unmatched by any other state. California contains more forestland than any other state except Alaska. Many of the trees in the California White Mountains are the oldest in the world; an individual bristlecone pine is over 5,000 years old.[86][87]

In the south is a large inland salt lake, the Salton Sea. The south-central desert is called the Mojave; to the northeast of the Mojave lies Death Valley, which contains the lowest and hottest place in North America, the Badwater Basin at −279 feet (−85 m).[9] The horizontal distance from the bottom of Death Valley to the top of Mount Whitney is less than 90 miles (140 km). Indeed, almost all of southeastern California is arid, hot desert, with routine extreme high temperatures during the summer. The southeastern border of California with Arizona is entirely formed by the Colorado River, from which the southern part of the state gets about half of its water.

A majority of California's cities are located in either the San Francisco Bay Area or the Sacramento metropolitan area in Northern California; or the Los Angeles area, the Riverside-San Bernardino-Inland Empire, or the San Diego metropolitan area in Southern California. The Los Angeles Area, the Bay Area, and the San Diego metropolitan area are among several major metropolitan areas along the California coast.

As part of the Ring of Fire, California is subject to tsunamis, floods, droughts, Santa Ana winds, wildfires, landslides on steep terrain, and has several volcanoes. It has many earthquakes due to several faults running through the state, in particular, the San Andreas Fault. About 37,000 earthquakes are recorded each year, but most are too small to be felt.[88]
Main article: Climate of California

Although most of the state has a Mediterranean climate, due to the state's large size, the climate ranges from polar to subtropical. The cool California Current offshore often creates summer fog near the coast. Farther inland, there are colder winters and hotter summers. The maritime moderation results in the shoreline summertime temperatures of Los Angeles and San Francisco being the coolest of all major metropolitan areas of the United States and uniquely cool compared to areas on the same latitude in the interior and on the east coast of the North American continent. Even the San Diego shoreline bordering Mexico is cooler in summer than most areas in the contiguous United States. Just a few miles inland, summer temperature extremes are significantly higher, with downtown Los Angeles being several degrees warmer than at the coast. The same microclimate phenomenon is seen in the climate of the Bay Area, where areas sheltered from the sea experience significantly hotter summers than nearby areas that are close to the ocean.

Northern parts of the state have more rain than the south. California's mountain ranges also influence the climate: some of the rainiest parts of the state are west-facing mountain slopes. Northwestern California has a temperate climate, and the Central Valley has a Mediterranean climate but with greater temperature extremes than the coast. The high mountains, including the Sierra Nevada, have an alpine climate with snow in winter and mild to moderate heat in summer.

California's mountains produce rain shadows on the eastern side, creating extensive deserts. The higher elevation deserts of eastern California have hot summers and cold winters, while the low deserts east of the Southern California mountains have hot summers and nearly frostless mild winters. Death Valley, a desert with large expanses below sea level, is considered the hottest location in the world; the highest temperature in the world,[89][90] 134 °F (56.7 °C), was recorded there on July 10, 1913. The lowest temperature in California was −45 °F (−43 °C) in 1937 in Boca.

The table below lists average temperatures for January and August in a selection of places throughout the state; some highly populated and some not. This includes the relatively cool summers of the Humboldt Bay region around Eureka, the extreme heat of Death Valley, and the mountain climate of Mammoth in the Sierra Nevadas.
Average temperatures and precipitation for selected communities in California[91] Location August
(°F) August
(°C) January
(°F) January
(°C) Annual
Los Angeles 83/64 29/18 66/48 20/8 377/15
LAX/LA Beaches 75/64 23/18 65/49 18/9 326/13
San Diego 76/67 24/19 65/49 18/9 262/10
San Jose 82/58 27/14 58/42 14/5 401/16
San Francisco 67/54 20/12 56/46 14/8 538/21
Fresno 97/66 34/19 55/38 12/3 292/11
Sacramento 91/58 33/14 54/39 12/3 469/18
Oakland 73/58 23/14 58/44 14/7 588/23
Bakersfield 96/69 36/21 56/39 13/3 165/7
Riverside 94/60 35/18 67/39 19/4 260/10
Eureka 62/53 16/11 54/41 12/5 960/38
Death Valley 113/84 45/29 64/37 18/3 53/2
Mammoth Lakes 77/45 25/7 40/15 4/ -9 583/23
Main article: Ecology of California
See also: Environment of California
Mount Whitney (top) is less than 90 miles (140 km) away from Badwater Basin in Death Valley (bottom)

California is one of the richest and most diverse parts of the world, and includes some of the most endangered ecological communities. California is part of the Nearctic ecozone and spans a number of terrestrial ecoregions.[92]

California's large number of endemic species includes relict species, which have died out elsewhere, such as the Catalina ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus). Many other endemics originated through differentiation or adaptive radiation, whereby multiple species develop from a common ancestor to take advantage of diverse ecological conditions such as the California lilac (Ceanothus). Many California endemics have become endangered, as urbanization, logging, overgrazing, and the introduction of exotic species have encroached on their habitat.
Flora and fauna
Main articles: Fauna of California and California Floristic Province
See also: List of California native plants
See also: List of invertebrates of California

California boasts several superlatives in its collection of flora: the largest trees, the tallest trees, and the oldest trees. California's native grasses are perennial plants.[93] After European contact, these were generally replaced by invasive species of European annual grasses; and, in modern times, California's hills turn a characteristic golden-brown in summer.[94]

Because California has the greatest diversity of climate and terrain, the state has six life zones which are the lower Sonoran (desert); upper Sonoran (foothill regions and some coastal lands), transition (coastal areas and moist northeastern counties); and the Canadian, Hudsonian, and Arctic Zones, comprising the state's highest elevations.[95]

Plant life in the dry climate of the lower Sonoran zone contains a diversity of native cactus, mesquite, and paloverde. The Joshua tree is found in the Mojave Desert. Flowering plants include the dwarf desert poppy and a variety of asters. Fremont cottonwood and valley oak thrive in the Central Valley. The upper Sonoran zone includes the chaparral belt, characterized by forests of small shrubs, stunted trees, and herbaceous plants. Nemophila, mint, Phacelia, Viola, and the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) – the state flower – also flourish in this zone, along with the lupine, more species of which occur here than anywhere else in the world.[95]

The transition zone includes most of California's forests with the redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and the "big tree" or giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), among the oldest living things on earth (some are said to have lived at least 4,000 years). Tanbark oak, California laurel, sugar pine, madrona, broad-leaved maple, and Douglas-fir also grow here. Forest floors are covered with swordfern, alumnroot, barrenwort, and trillium, and there are thickets of huckleberry, azalea, elder, and wild currant. Characteristic wild flowers include varieties of mariposa, tulip, and tiger and leopard lilies.[96]

The high elevations of the Canadian zone allow the Jeffrey pine, red fir, and lodgepole pine to thrive. Brushy areas are abundant with dwarf manzanita and ceanothus; the unique Sierra puffball is also found here. Right below the timberline, in the Hudsonian zone, the whitebark, foxtail, and silver pines grow. At about 10,500 feet (3,200 m), begins the Arctic zone, a treeless region whose flora include a number of wildflowers, including Sierra primrose, yellow columbine, alpine buttercup, and alpine shooting star.[95][97]

Common plants that have been introduced to the state include the eucalyptus, acacia, pepper tree, geranium, and Scotch broom. The species that are federally classified as endangered are the Contra Costa wallflower, Antioch Dunes evening primrose, Solano grass, San Clemente Island larkspur, salt marsh bird's beak, McDonald's rock-cress, and Santa Barbara Island liveforever. As of December 1997, 85 plant species were listed as threatened or endangered.[95]

In the deserts of the lower Sonoran zone, the mammals include the jackrabbit, kangaroo rat, squirrel, and opossum. Common birds include the owl, roadrunner, cactus wren, and various species of hawk. The area's reptilian life include the sidewinder viper, desert tortoise, and horned toad. The upper Sonoran zone boasts mammals such as the antelope, brown-footed woodrat, and ring-tailed cat. Birds unique to this zone are the California thrasher, bushtit, and California condor.[95][98][99][100]

In the transition zone, there are Colombian black-tailed deer, black bears, gray foxes, cougars, bobcats, and Roosevelt elk. Reptiles such as the garter snakes and rattlesnakes inhabit the zone. In addition, amphibians such as the water puppy and redwood salamander are common too. Birds such as the kingfisher, chickadee, towhee, and hummingbird thrive here as well.[95][101]

The Canadian zone mammals include the mountain weasel, snowshoe hare, and several species of chipmunks. Conspicuous birds include the blue-fronted jay, Sierra chickadee. Sierra hermit thrush, water ouzel, and Townsend's solitaire. As one ascends into the Hudsonian zone, birds become scarcer. While the Sierra rosy finch is the only bird native to the high Arctic region, other bird species such as the hummingbird and Clark's nutcracker. Principal mammals found in this region include the Sierra coney, white-tailed jackrabbit, and the bighorn sheep. As of April 2003, the bighorn sheep was listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The fauna found throughout several zones are the mule deer, coyote, mountain lion, northern flicker, and several species of hawk and sparrow.[95]

Aquatic life in California thrives, from the state's mountain lakes and streams to the rocky Pacific coastline. Numerous trout species are found, among them rainbow, golden, and cutthroat. Migratory species of salmon are common as well. Deep-sea life forms include sea bass, yellowfin tuna, barracuda, and several types of whale. Native to the cliffs of northern California are seals, sea lions, and many types of shorebirds, including migratory species.[95]

As of April 2003, 118 California animals were on the federal endangered list; 181 plants were listed as endangered or threatened. Endangered animals include the San Joaquin kitfox, Point Arena mountain beaver, Pacific pocket mouse, salt marsh harvest mouse, Morro Bay kangaroo rat (and five other species of kangaroo rat), Amargosa vole, California least tern, California condor, loggerhead shrike, San Clemente sage sparrow, San Francisco garter snake, five species of salamander, three species of chub, and two species of pupfish. Eleven butterflies are also endangered[102] and two that are threatened are on the federal list.[103][104] Among threatened animals are the coastal California gnatcatcher, Paiute cutthroat trout, southern sea otter, and northern spotted owl. California has a total of 290,821 acres (1,176.91 km2) of National Wildlife Refuges.[95] As of September 2010, 123 California animals were listed as either endangered or threatened on the federal list provided by the US Fish & Wildlife Service.[105] Also, as of the same year, 178 species of California plants were listed either as endangered or threatened on this federal list.[105]
Main article: List of rivers of California

The vast majority of rivers in California are dammed as part of two massive water projects: the Central Valley Project, providing water to the agricultural Central Valley, and the California State Water Project diverting water from northern to southern California. The state's coasts, rivers, and other bodies of water are regulated by the California Coastal Commission.

The two most prominent rivers within California are the Sacramento River and the San Joaquin River, which drain the Central Valley and the west slope of the Sierra Nevada and flow to the Pacific Ocean through San Francisco Bay. Several major tributaries feed into the Sacramento and the San Joaquin, including the Pit River, the Tuolumne River, and the Feather River.

The Eel River and Salinas River each drain portions of the California coast, north and south of San Francisco Bay, respectively, and the Eel River is the largest river in the state to remain in its natural un-dammed state. The Mojave River is the primary watercourse in the Mojave Desert, and the Santa Ana River drains much of the Transverse Ranges as it bisects Southern California. Some other important rivers are the Klamath River and the Trinity River in the far north coast, and the Colorado River on the southeast border with Arizona.
Further information: List of regions of California and List of places in California

Coastal California
North Coast
Greater Bay Area
Central Coast
South Coast
Greater Los Angeles
Greater San Diego
Channel Islands
Northern California
Cascade Range
Klamath Mountains
North Coast
Greater Sacramento
Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta
Central California
Greater Bay Area
Northern Sierra

Central California
Greater Sacramento
San Joaquin Valley
Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta
Central Coast
Eastern California
Central Sierra
Inland Empire
Southern California
South Coast
Greater Los Angeles
Channel Islands
Inland Empire
Southern Border Region
Greater San Diego–Tijuana
Greater El Centro

Main article: Demography of California
Historical population
Census Pop. %±
1850 92,597 —
1860 379,994 310.4%
1870 560,247 47.4%
1880 864,694 54.3%
1890 1,213,398 40.3%
1900 1,485,053 22.4%
1910 2,377,549 60.1%
1920 3,426,861 44.1%
1930 5,677,251 65.7%
1940 6,907,387 21.7%
1950 10,586,223 53.3%
1960 15,717,204 48.5%
1970 19,953,134 27.0%
1980 23,667,902 18.6%
1990 29,760,021 25.7%
2000 33,871,648 13.8%
2010 37,253,956 10.0%
Est. 2017 39,536,653 6.1%
Sources: 1790–1990, 2000, 2010, 2016[106][107][108]
Chart does not include Indigenous population figures.
Studies indicate that the Native American
population in California in 1850 was close to 150,000
before declining to 15,000 by 1900.[63][109]
Los Angeles is the second-most populous city in the U.S., after New York City.
The population density of California

The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of California was 39,250,017 on July 1, 2016, a 5.4% increase since the 2010 United States Census. The population is projected to reach 40 million by 2018 and 50 million by 2055.[110]

Between 2000 and 2009, there was a natural increase of 3,090,016 (5,058,440 births minus 2,179,958 deaths).[111] During this time period, international migration produced a net increase of 1,816,633 people while domestic migration produced a net decrease of 1,509,708, resulting in a net in-migration of 306,925 people.[111] The state of California's own statistics show a population of 38,292,687 for January 1, 2009.[112] However, according to the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, since 1990 almost 3.4 million Californians have moved to other states, with most leaving to Texas, Nevada, and Arizona.[113]

California is the 2nd-most populous subnational entity in the Western Hemisphere and the Americas, with a population second to that of the state of São Paulo in Brazil.[114] California's population is greater than that of all but 34 countries of the world.[115][116] The Greater Los Angeles Area is the 2nd-largest metropolitan area in the United States, after the New York metropolitan area, while Los Angeles, with nearly half the population of New York City, is the second-largest city in the United States. Also, Los Angeles County has held the title of most populous United States county for decades, and it alone is more populous than 42 United States states.[117][118] Including Los Angeles, four of the top 15 most populous cities in the U.S. are in California: Los Angeles (2nd), San Diego (8th), San Jose (10th), and San Francisco (13th). The center of population of California is located in the town of Buttonwillow, Kern County.[note 1]
Cities and towns
See also: List of cities and towns in California and List of largest California cities by population

The state has 482 incorporated cities and towns, of which 460 are cities and 22 are towns. Under California law, the terms "city" and "town" are explicitly interchangeable; the name of an incorporated municipality in the state can either be "City of (Name)" or "Town of (Name)".[120]

Sacramento became California's first incorporated city on February 27, 1850.[121] San Jose, San Diego and Benicia tied for California's second incorporated city, each receiving incorporation on March 27, 1850.[122][123][124] Jurupa Valley became the state's most recent and 482nd incorporated municipality on July 1, 2011.[125][126]

The majority of these cities and towns are within one of five metropolitan areas: the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Riverside-San Bernardino Area, the San Diego metropolitan area, or the Sacramento metropolitan area.

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