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Lower 48 states

[ 2010-05-19 10:47]     字号 [] [] []  
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Lower 48 states

Reader’s question:

According to the Energy Information Administration's weekly assessment, natural gas storage in the lower 48 states saw a net injection of 72 billion cubic feet last week.

Could you explain “lower 48 states”? Why should we use “lower” here?

My comments:

The lower 48 states refer to continental USA except Alaska…

The United States has 50 states. If you take a look at the map of this country, you’ll see that continental USA has 49 states. Among them, 48 states are connected, in a body, down the southern border of Canada. The 49th state, Alaska on the other hand is located, solitarily, further to the northwest of the lower 48 states.

“LOWER 48” because in the map Alaska is “up” in the north, while the 48 connected states are “down” in the south. In other words, according the people in the Northern Hemisphere, “north” is high, “south” is low.

Hence the expression.

The 50th state, of course, is Hawaii, located deep in the Pacific Ocean thousands of miles to the west of the North American continent.

Ah well.

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Go to Zhang Xin's column


About the author:

Zhang Xin has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.