Washington

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Washington

Nevada is a state in the Western region of the United States. It is bordered by Oregon to the northwest, Idaho to the northeast, California to the west, Arizona to the southeast, and Utah to the east. Nevada is the 7th-most extensive, the 32nd-most populous, and the 9th-least densely populated of the U.S. states. Nearly three-quarters of Nevada’s people live in Clark County, which contains the Las Vegas–Paradise metropolitan area, including three of the state’s four largest incorporated cities. Nevada’s capital is Carson City while the largest city is Las Vegas.

Etymology

Washington was named after President George Washington by an act of the United States Congress during the creation of Washington Territory in 1853; the territory was to be named “Columbia”, for the Columbia River and the Columbia District, but Kentucky representative Richard H. Stanton found the name too similar to the District of Columbia (the national capital, itself containing the city of Washington), and proposed naming the new territory after President Washington. Washington is the only U.S. state named after a president.

Confusion over the state of Washington and the city of Washington, D.C., led to renaming proposals during the statehood process for Washington in 1889, including David Dudley Field II’s suggestion to name the new state “Tacoma”; these proposals failed to garner support. Washington, D.C.’s, own statehood movement in the 21st century has included a proposal to use the name “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth”, which would conflict with the current state of Washington. Residents of Washington (known as “Washingtonians”) and the Pacific Northwest simply refer to the state as “Washington”, and the nation’s capital “Washington, D.C.”, “the other Washington”, or simply “D.C.”

Geography

Washington is the northwesternmost state of the contiguous United States. It borders Idaho to the east, bounded mostly by the meridian running north from the confluence of the Snake River and Clearwater River (about 117°02’23” west), except for the southernmost section where the border follows the Snake River. Oregon is to the south, with the Columbia River forming the western part and the 46th parallel forming the eastern part of the Oregon–Washington border. During Washington’s partition from Oregon, the original plan for the border followed the Columbia River east until the confluence with the Snake, and then would have followed the Snake River east; this was changed in order to keep Walla Walla’s fertile farmland in Washington.

To the west of Washington lies the Pacific Ocean. Its northern border lies mostly along the 49th parallel, and then via marine boundaries through the Strait of Georgia, Haro Strait, and Strait of Juan de Fuca, with the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north.

Western Washington

From the Cascade Mountains westward, Western Washington has a mostly mediterranean climate, with mild temperatures and wet winters, autumns and springs, and relatively dry summers. The Cascade Range has several volcanoes, which reach altitudes significantly higher than the rest of the mountains. From north to south, these major volcanoes are Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Adams. All are active volcanoes.

Mount Rainier—the tallest mountain in the state—is 50 miles (80 km) south of the city of Seattle, from which it is prominently visible. The U.S. Geological Survey considers 14,411-foot-tall (4,392 m) Mount Rainier the most dangerous volcano in the Cascade Range, due to its proximity to the Seattle metropolitan area, and most dangerous in the continental U.S. according to the Decade Volcanoes list. It is also covered with more glacial ice than any other peak in the contiguous 48 states.

Eastern Washington

Eastern Washington—the part of the state east of the Cascades—has a relatively dry climate, in distinct contrast to the west side. It includes large areas of semiarid steppe and a few truly arid deserts in the rain shadow of the Cascades; the Hanford reservation receives an average annual precipitation of 6 to 7 inches (150 to 180 mm). Despite the limited amount of rainfall, agriculture is an extremely important business throughout much of Eastern Washington, as the soil is highly productive and irrigation, aided by dams along the Columbia River, is fairly widespread. The spread of population in Eastern Washington is dominated by access to water, especially rivers. The main cities are all located alongside rivers or lakes; most of them are named after the river or lake they adjoin.

Farther east, the climate becomes less arid, with annual rainfall increasing as one goes east to 21.2 inches (540 mm) in Pullman, near the Washington–Idaho border. The Okanogan Highlands and the rugged Kettle River Range and Selkirk Mountains cover much of the state’s northeastern quadrant. The Palouse southeast region of Washington was grassland that has been mostly converted into farmland, and extends to the Blue Mountains.

Climate

Dryland farming caused a large dust storm in arid parts of Eastern Washington on October 4, 2009. Courtesy: NASA/GSFC, MODIS Rapid Response.

Major factors determining Washington’s climate include the large semi-permanent high pressure and low pressure systems of the north Pacific Ocean, the continental air masses of North America, and the Olympic and Cascade mountains. In the spring and summer, a high pressure anticyclone system dominates the north Pacific Ocean, causing air to spiral out in a clockwise fashion. For Washington, this means prevailing winds from the northwest bring relatively cool air and a predictably dry season.

In the autumn and winter, a low-pressure cyclone system takes over in the north Pacific Ocean. The air spiraling inward in a counter-clockwise fashion causes Washington’s prevailing winds to come from the southwest, and bring relatively warm and moist air masses and a predictably wet season. The term “Pineapple Express” is used colloquially to describe atmospheric river events, where repeated storm systems are directed by this persistent cyclone from tropical and near-tropical Pacific regions into the Pacific Northwest.

Rain Shadow Effects

Rainfall in Washington varies dramatically going from east to west. The Olympic Peninsula's western side receives as much as 160 inches (4,100 mm) of precipitation annually, making it the wettest area of the 48 conterminous states and a temperate rainforest. Weeks may pass without a clear day. The western slopes of the Cascade Range receive some of the heaviest annual snowfall (in some places more than 200 inches or 5,100 millimeters water equivalent) in the country. In the rain shadow area east of the Cascades, the annual precipitation is only 6 inches (150 mm). Precipitation then increases again eastward toward the Rocky Mountains (about 120 miles (190 km) east of the Idaho border).

The Olympic mountains and Cascades compound this climatic pattern by causing orographic lift of the air masses blown inland from the Pacific Ocean, resulting in the windward side of the mountains receiving high levels of precipitation and the leeward side receiving low levels. This occurs most dramatically around the Olympic Mountains and the Cascade Range. In both cases the windward slopes facing southwest receive high precipitation and mild, cool temperatures. While the Puget Sound lowlands are known for clouds and rain in the winter, the western slopes of the Cascades receive larger amounts of precipitation, often falling as snow at higher elevations. Mount Baker, near the state's northern border, is one of the snowiest places in the world. In 1999, it set the world record for snowfall in a single season—1,140 inches (95 ft; 29 m).

Temperatures

The average annual temperature ranges from 51 °F (11 °C) on the Pacific coast to 40 °F (4 °C) in the northeast. The lowest temperature recorded in the state was −48 °F (−44 °C) in Winthrop and Mazama. The highest recorded temperature in the state was 120 °F (49 °C) at Hanford on June 29, 2021. Both records were set east of the Cascades. Western Washington is known for its mild climate, considerable fog, frequent cloud cover, long-lasting drizzles in the winter and warm, temperate summers. The eastern region, which does not benefit from the general moderating effect of the Pacific Ocean, occasionally experiences extreme climate. Arctic cold fronts in the winter and heat waves in the summer are not uncommon. In the Western region, temperatures have reached as high as 118 °F (48 °C) in Maple Valley during the June 2021 heat wave, and as low as −6 °F (−21 °C) in Longview.

Administrative Divisions

There are 39 counties within the state, and 281 incorporated municipalities which are divided into cities and towns. The majority of the state's population lives within Western Washington, in the Seattle metropolitan area; the city of Seattle is the principal city of the metropolitan area, and Western Washington, with a 2020 census population of 737,015.

Demographics

Population

Washington's population was 7,705,281 in the 2020 census, a 14.6 percent increase since the 2010 census. In 2018, the state ranked 13th overall in population, and was the third most populous, after California and Texas, west of the Mississippi River. Washington has the largest Pacific Northwest population, followed by Oregon, then Idaho. The Washington State Office of Financial Management reported the state population at 7,656,200 as of April 1, 2020. The racial composition of Washington's population as of 2016 was:

Race and Hispanic origin of Washington by county, showing race by color, and then breaking down non-Hispanic and Hispanic origin by color tone. County population shown by size and by label. The same data on the map below shows non-Hispanic and Hispanic origin first, and then breaks that down by race using color tone. The same race and origin data as above, but Hispanic origin is grouped first, then by race. The first emphasizes the racial diversity of people of Hispanic origin, while the second grouping gives a clearer indication of total Hispanic population.

Washington's population was 7,705,281 in the 2020 census, a 14.6 percent increase since the 2010 census. In 2018, the state ranked 13th overall in population, and was the third most populous, after California and Texas, west of the Mississippi River. Washington has the largest Pacific Northwest population, followed by Oregon, then Idaho. The Washington State Office of Financial Management reported the state population at 7,656,200 as of April 1, 2020. The racial composition of Washington's population as of 2016 was: Race and Hispanic origin of Washington by county, showing race by color, and then breaking down non-Hispanic and Hispanic origin by color tone. County population shown by size and by label. The same data on the map below shows non-Hispanic and Hispanic origin first, and then breaks that down by race using color tone.

The same race and origin data as above, but Hispanic origin is grouped first, then by race. The first emphasizes the racial diversity of people of Hispanic origin, while the second grouping gives a clearer indication of total Hispanic population.

Areas of Concentration

While the population of African Americans in the Pacific Northwest is relatively scarce overall, they are mostly concentrated in the South End and Central District areas of Seattle, and in inner Tacoma. The black community of Seattle consisted of one individual in 1858, Manuel Lopes, and grew to a population of 406 by 1900. It developed substantially during and after World War II when wartime industries and the U.S. Armed Forces employed and recruited tens of thousands of African Americans from the Southeastern United States. They moved west in the second wave of the Great Migration left a high influence in West Coast rock music and R&B and soul in the 1960s, including Seattle native Jimi Hendrix, a pioneer in hard rock, who was of African American and Cherokee Indian descent.

Native Americans lived on Indian reservations or jurisdictory lands such as the Colville Indian Reservation, Makah, Muckleshoot Indian Reservation, Quinault, Salish people, Spokane Indian Reservation, and Yakama Indian Reservation. The westernmost and Pacific coasts have primarily American Indian communities, such as the Chinook, Lummi, and Salish. Urban Indian communities formed by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs relocation programs in Seattle since the end of World War II brought a variety of Native American peoples to this diverse metropolis. The city was named for Chief Seattle in the very early 1850s when European Americans settled the sound.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are mostly concentrated in the Seattle−Tacoma metropolitan area of the state. Seattle, Bellevue, and Redmond, which are all within King County, have sizable Chinese communities (including Taiwanese), as well as significant Indian and Japanese communities. The Chinatown-International District in Seattle has a historical Chinese population dating back to the 1860s, who mainly emigrated from Guangdong Province in southern China, and is home to a diverse East and Southeast Asian community. Koreans are heavily concentrated in the suburban cities of Federal Way and Auburn to the south, and in Lynnwood to the north. 

Tacoma is home to thousands of Cambodians, and has one of the largest Cambodian-American communities in the United States, along with Long Beach, California, and Lowell, Massachusetts. The Vietnamese and Filipino populations of Washington are mostly concentrated within the Seattle metropolitan area. Washington state has the second highest percentage of Pacific Islander people in the mainland U.S. (behind Utah); the Seattle-Tacoma area is home to more than 15,000 people of Samoan ancestry, who mainly reside in southeast Seattle, Tacoma, Federal Way, and in SeaTac.

The most numerous (ethnic, not racial, group) are Latinos at 11%, as Mexican Americans formed a large ethnic group in the Chehalis Valley, farming areas of Yakima Valley, and Eastern Washington. They were reported to at least date as far back as the 1800s. But it was in the late 20th century, that large-scale Mexican immigration and other Latinos settled in the southern suburbs of Seattle, with limited concentrations in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties during the region’s real estate construction booms in the 1980s and 1990s.

Additionally, Washington has a large Ethiopian community, with many Eritrean residents as well. Both emerged in the late 1960s, and developed since 1980. An estimated 30,000 Somali immigrants reside in the Seattle area.

Languages

In 2010, 82.51% (5,060,313) of Washington residents age 5 and older spoke English at home as a primary language, while 7.79% (477,566) spoke Spanish, 1.19% (72,552) Chinese (which includes Cantonese and Mandarin), 0.94% (57,895) Vietnamese, 0.84% (51,301) Tagalog, 0.83% (50,757) Korean, 0.80% (49,282) Russian, and 0.55% (33,744) German. In total, 17.49% (1,073,002) of Washington’s population age 5 and older spoke a mother language other than English.

Religion

The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2010 were the Roman Catholic Church, with 784,332; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with 282,356; and the Assemblies of God, with 125,005. Aquarian Tabernacle Church is the largest Wiccan church in the country.  Like other West Coast states, the percentage of Washington’s population identifying themselves as “non-religious” is higher than the national average.

Economy

Washington has a relatively strong economy, with a total gross state product of $612,996.5 million in 2019, placing it fifth in the nation and growing by 6.5 percent per year—the fastest rate in the United States. The minimum wage as of January 1, 2021, was $13.69 an hour, the second highest of any state or district in the country behind Washington D.C at $14.00 an hour. Significant business within the state include the design and manufacture of aircraft (Boeing), automotive (Paccar), computer software development (Microsoft, Bungie, Amazon, Nintendo of America, Valve, ArenaNet), telecom (T-Mobile US), electronics, biotechnology, aluminum production, lumber and wood products (Weyerhaeuser), mining, beverages (Starbucks, Jones Soda), real estate (John L. Scott, Colliers International, Windermere Real Estate, Kidder Mathews), retail (Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer, Car Toys, Costco, R.E.I.), and tourism (Alaska Airlines, Expedia, Inc.). 

A Fortune magazine survey of the top 20 Most Admired Companies in the U.S. has four Washington-based companies: Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft, and Costco. At over 80 percent the state has significant amounts of hydroelectric power generation. Also, significant amounts of trade with Asia pass through the ports of the Puget Sound, leading to a number six ranking of U.S. ports (ranking combines twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) moved and infrastructure index).

Agriculture

Washington is a leading agricultural state. The following figures are from the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Washington Field Office. For 2018, the total value of Washington's agricultural products was $10.6 billion. In 2014, Washington ranked first in the nation in production of red raspberries (90.5 percent of total U.S. production), hops (79.3 percent), spearmint oil (75 percent), wrinkled seed peas (70.4 percent), apples (71.1 percent), sweet cherries (62.3 percent), pears (45.6 percent), Concord grapes (55.1 percent), carrots for processing (30.6 percent), and green peas for processing (32.4 percent).

Washington also ranked second in the nation in production of fall potatoes (a quarter of the nation's production), nectarines, apricots, asparagus, all raspberries, grapes (all varieties taken together), sweet corn for processing (a quarter of the nation's production), and summer onions (a fifth of the nation's production). Washington also ranked third in the nation in production of dried peas, lentil, onions, and peppermint oil.

Wine

Washington ranks second in the United States in the production of wine, behind only California. By 2006, the state had over 31,000 acres (130 km2) of vineyards, a harvest of 120,000 short tons (109,000 t) of grapes, and exports going to more than forty countries around the world from the state's 600 wineries. By 2021, that number had grown to 1050 wineries. While there are some viticultural activities in the cooler, wetter western half of the state, almost all (99%) of wine grape production takes place in the desert-like eastern half.

The rain shadow of the Cascade Range leaves the Columbia River Basin with around 8 inches (200 mm) of annual rain fall, making irrigation and water rights of paramount interest to the Washington wine industry. Viticulture in the state is also influenced by long sunlight hours (on average, two more hours a day than in California during the growing season) and consistent temperatures.

Transportation

Washington’s state transportation system comprises several modes that are maintained by various government entities. The state highway system, called State Routes, includes over 7,000 miles (11,000 km) of roads and the Washington State Ferries system, the largest of its kind in the nation and the third largest in the world. There are also 57,200 miles (92,100 km) of local roads maintained by cities and counties, as well as several ferries operated by local governments. There are 140 public airfields in Washington, including 16 state airports owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Sea-Tac) is the major commercial airport of greater Seattle. Boeing Field in Seattle is one of the busiest primary non-hub airports in the U.S.

There are extensive waterways around Washington’s largest cities, including Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma and Olympia. The state highways incorporate an extensive network of bridges and the largest ferry system in the United States to serve transportation needs in the Puget Sound area. Washington’s marine highway constitutes a fleet of twenty-eight ferries that navigate Puget Sound and its inland waterways to 20 different ports of call, completing close to 147,000 sailings each year. Washington is home to four of the five longest floating bridges in the world: the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge and Homer M. Hadley Memorial Bridge over Lake Washington, and the Hood Canal Bridge which connects the Olympic Peninsula and Kitsap Peninsula.

 Among its most famous bridges is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which collapsed in 1940 and was rebuilt. Washington has 75 port districts, including several major seaports on the Pacific Ocean. Among these are ports in Seattle, Tacoma, Kalama, Anacortes, Vancouver, Everett, Longview, Grays Harbor, Olympia, and Port Angeles. The Columbia and Snake rivers also provide 465 miles (748 km) of inland waterways that are navigable by barges as far east as Lewiston, Idaho.

Education

Elementary and Secondary Education

As of the 2020–2021 school year, 1,094,330 students were enrolled in elementary and secondary schools in Washington, with 67,841 teachers employed to educate them. As of August 2009, there were 295 school districts in the state, serviced by nine Educational Service Districts. Washington School Information Processing Cooperative (a non-profit opt-in state agency) provides information management systems for fiscal & human resources and student data.

Elementary and secondary schools are under the jurisdiction of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). High school juniors and seniors in Washington have the option of using the state's Running Start program. Begun by the state legislature in 1990, it allows students to attend institutions of higher education at public expense, simultaneously earning high school and college credit.

Higher Education

There are more than 40 institutions of higher education in Washington. The state has major research universities, technical schools, religious schools, and private career colleges. Colleges and universities include the University of Washington, Seattle University, Washington State University, Western Washington University, Eastern Washington University, Central Washington University, Seattle Pacific University, Saint Martin's University, Pacific Lutheran University, Gonzaga University, University of Puget Sound, The Evergreen State College, and Whitman College.

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