Illinois, United States

About Illinois

Illinois is the most populous and demographically diverse Midwestern state and the fifth most populous state in the nation. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and western Illinois, and natural resources like coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has a broad economic base. Illinois is an important transportation hub; the Port of Chicago connects the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River via the Illinois River. Illinois is often viewed as a microcosm of the United States, while Peoria has long been a proverbial social and cultural bellwether. Though Illinois lies entirely in the Interior Plains, it has three major geographical divisions. The first is Northern Illinois, dominated by the Chicago metropolitan area, including the city of Chicago, its suburbs, and the adjoining exurban area into which the metropolis is expanding. The Chicago metro area includes a few counties in Indiana and Wisconsin and stretches across much of northeastern Illinois.

Illinois Tourism and Recreation

The tourist industry is of special importance to Chicago, which has become the nation's leading convention center. Business travel accounts for about 36% of all state travel.

Chicago's chief tourist attractions are its museums, restaurants, and shops. Chicago also boasts one of the world's tallest buildings, the Sears Tower, 110 stories and 1,454 feet (443 meters) high. There are 42 state parks, 4 state forests, 36,659 campsites, and 25 state recreation places. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield was one of the state's most popular tourist attractions. Swimming, bicycling, hiking, camping, horseback riding, fishing, and motorboating are the most popular recreational activities. Even more popular than hunting is wildlife observation, an activity that engages millions of Illinoisans annually.

Illinois Climate

Because of its nearly 400 miles (640 km) length and mid-continental placement, Illinois has a widely varying climate. Most of Illinois has a humid continental climate with hot, humid summers and cool to cold winters. The southernmost part of the state, from about Carbondale southward, borders on a humid subtropical climate with more moderate winters. Average yearly precipitation for Illinois varies from just over 48 inches (1,200 mm) at the southern tip to 35 inches (890 mm) in the northern portion of the state.

Due to the urban heat island effect, cities tend to be 2 °F (1 °C) warmer on average, which is most noticeable overnight. Extreme temperatures changes can occur within minutes with the passage of a strong cold front through the state. Average yearly precipitation for Illinois varies from just over 48 inches (1,200 mm) at the southern tip to just under 32 inches (810 mm) in the northern portion of the state. May and June are the wettest months of the year. Flooding is the most damaging weather hazard within the state. Increased warming within urban heat islands leads to an increase in rainfall downwind of cities. Lake Michigan leads to an increase in winter precipitation along its south shore due to lake effect snow forming over the relatively warm lakes. In summer, the relatively cooler lake leads to a more stable atmosphere near the lake shore, reducing rainfall potential.

Illinois Transportaion

Because of its central location and its proximity to the Rust Belt and Grain Belt, Illinois is a national crossroads for air, auto, rail and truck traffic. Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD) is one of the busiest airports in the world, with 59.3 million domestic passengers annually, along with 11.4 million international passengers.

Major U.S. Interstate highways crossing the state include: I-24, I-39, I-55, I-57, I-64, I-70, I-72, I-74, I-80, I-88, I-90, and I-94. Its central location is the reason that Illinois carries the distinction of having the most primary (2-digit) Interstates pass through it among the 50 states.