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West Coast or Pacific Coast are terms for the westernmost coastal states of the United States, usually California, Oregon, and Washington. More specifically, the term refers to an area defined on the east by the Cascade Range, Sierra Nevada, and Mojave Desert and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. Census groups the five states of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii together as the Pacific States division.
As of the 2010 Census, the estimated population of the Census Bureau's Pacific Region was approximately 47.8 million (56.9 million if Nevada and Arizona are included) – about 15.3% (18.2% with Nevada and Arizona) of US population. The largest city on the west coast of the United States is Los Angeles.
Major cities and metropolitan areas on the West Coast include (from north to south):
The history of the West Coast begins with the arrival of the earliest known humans of the Americas, Paleo-Indians, crossing the Bering Strait from Eurasia into North America over a land bridge, Beringia, that existed between 45,000 BCE and 12,000 BCE (47,000–14,000 years ago). Small isolated groups of hunter-gatherers migrated alongside herds of large herbivores far into Alaska. Between 16,500 BCE and 13,500 BCE (18,500–15,500 years ago), ice-free corridors developed along the Pacific coast and valleys of North America and possibly by sea.
Alaska Natives, indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, and California indigenous peoples eventually descended from the Paleo-Indians. They developed various languages and established trade routes.
The West Coast of the United States has an oceanic climate in its Northern edge towards the Canadian border, but from the Californian border towards the Mexican border the climate is mediterranean. The coastline sees significantly mild temperatures when compared to the inland areas, with differences of 19 °C between Eureka's and Redding's July temperatures, in spite of less than 100 miles separating the locations. Similar fluctuations can be seen all through the coastline, and could partially be explained by the cold currents in the Pacific ocean moderating coastal temperatures. In fact, the northern half of the Californian coast has the coldest low-elevation summer daytime high temperatures for the 37th to 40th parallel in the Northern hemisphere, normally associated with humid subtropical climate or humid continental climate with hot summers and cold winters. This is not just occurring in the San Francisco Bay Area but also affecting Santa Monica in Los Angeles, Southern California, with very little yearly temperature differences but with cool summers similar to those expected in Northern Europe. A short journey inland and summer temperatures are compatible with the rest of the United States on the same parallels, sometimes warmer due to prevailing winds from the Nevada and Arizona hot desert climate.
Since the West Coast has only been populated by immigrants recently, compared with the East Coast, its culture is considerably younger. Additionally, its demographic composition underlies its cultural difference from the rest of the United States. California's history first as a major Spanish colony, and later Mexican territory, has given the lower West Coast a distinctive hispanic tone, which it also shares with the Southwest. Similarly, two of the three cities Asian Americans have concentrated in belong in the West Coast, San Francisco and Los Angeles, with significant populations in other West Coast cities. San Francisco's Chinatown, the oldest in North America, is a vibrant cultural center.
In general, in comparison to the East Coast the West has been considered less bounded by tradition and more freely engaged and open to new things. The West Coast also has a proportionally larger share of green cities within the United States, which manifests itself in different cultural practices such as bicycling and organic gardening.