California ( KAL-i-FORN-yə, KAL-i-FOR-nee-ə) is the most populous state in the United States and the third most extensive by area. Located on the western (Pacific Ocean) coast of the U.S., California is bordered by Oregon to the north, Nevada, to the east and northeast, Arizona to the southeast and it shares an international border with the Mexican state of Baja California ("lower" California) to the south. The state capital is Sacramento. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second largest after New York City. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and fifth-most populous urban regions, respectively. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County.
California'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 means it can 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 American 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 (Upper California> in their New Spain colony. In 1821, following its successful war for independence, New Spain seceded from Spain and renamed itself Mexico, after the Mexica, a Nahua people (a sub-group of the speakers of Uto-Aztecan languages who were spread across parts of the modern United States of America, Mexico and Central America, and who also included numerous other polities such as the Comanche, Paiute, and Shoshone, many of which lived in Alta California) who had ruled the Valley of Mexico before their conquest by Spain. A number of Mexican provinces, however, were to be lost to the rapacious United States of America, which was rapidly expanding its border westward during the Nineteenth Century. Alta California was ceded to the United States in 1848 after the Mexican–American War. The western portion of Alta California then was organized as the State of California, 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.
If it were a country, California would be the 6th largest economy in the world and the 35th most populous. It is also regarded as a global trendsetter in both popular culture and politics, and is the origin of the film industry, the hippie counterculture, the Internet, and the personal computer, among others. Fifty-eight percent of the state's economy is centered on finance, government, real estate services, technology, and professional, scientific and technical business services. The San Francisco Bay Area has the nation's highest median household income by metropolitan area, and is the headquarters of three of the world's largest 40 firms by revenue, Chevron, Apple, and McKesson. Although it accounts for only 1.5 percent of the state's economy, California's agriculture industry has the highest output of any U.S. state.