The state of Illinois has the distinction of being the second flattest state in the country, surpassed in flatness only by the state of Florida.
University of Kansas geologist Jerome Dobson and Joshua Campbell completed the recent study, which included a survey asking Americans which state they thought was the flattest state in the country. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed chose Kansas as the flattest state, followed by 23 percent choosing Florida as the flattest state.
The study addresses the question as to why a state like Kansas appears to be flatter than Illinois. Could it be that drivers traveling east-to-west can get across Illinois faster than Kansas, since Illinois is longer north-to-south? Since Kansas is more wide than long, it appears to have more flat land, the study states.
As reported in the study, a detailed calculation system was used to determine the percentage of land mass in each state in the flat, flatter and flattest categories.
Florida has 52 percent of its land categorized in the flat, flatter and flattest levels. Illinois followed close behind at 50 percent. Rounding out the Top 5 were North Dakota at 49 percent; Louisiana at 47 percent; and Minnesota at 47 percent. Kansas came in as No. 7, having 44 percent of its land determined in some level of flatness.
In an interview with the Bureau County Republican, study co-author Jerry Dobson said he predicted Florida would be the flattest state in the country and that Kansas would not be in the Top 5. He also predicted the coastal states, with only a corner in the mountains, like South Carolina, would rank high.
“I sort of predicted Illinois would rank No. 2. What I actually said was ‘Central Illinois is the flattest place I see as I drive across the country,’” Dobson said.
However, there were some surprises to the survey results, mainly that Iowa and Nebraska would rank so low, at 18th and 19th, respectively, Dobson said.
Though Hawaii and Alaska were not included in the study, there’s no way either state would rank high, for having a large percentage of flat land, Dobson said. In fact, he would expect Hawaii to rank very low, possibly challenging West Virginia for being the least flat state in the country, the geologist said.
As concluded by the study authors, there are merits to studying the flatness of the states, aside from state pride. Business, academic and other recruiting endeavors may be hampered or enhanced by the perceived flatness of a state.
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1. Florida at 52 percent of its land determined to be flat
2. Illinois 50 percent
3. North Dakota 49 percent
4. Louisana 47 percent
5. Minnesota 47 percent
6. Delaware 44 percent
7. Kansas 44 percent
8. Texas 43 percent
9. Nevada 43 percent
10. Indiana 12 percent
Other Midwest states
12. Michigan 40 percent
18. Iowa 36 percent
19. Nebraska 36 percent
20. Ohio 36 percent
29. Wisconsin 31 percent
31. Missouri 30 percent
Least flat states
40. Massachusetts at 25 percent
41. Washington 25 percent
42. Virginia 24 percent
43. Tennessee 22 percent
44. Connecticut 21 percent
45. Vernmont 20 percent.
46. New Hampshire 20 percent
47. Kentucky 20 percent
48. Pennsylvania 20 percent
49 West Virginia 12 percent.
(District of Columbia included in the survey, coming in at No. 38 with 25 percent of its land in the flat, flatter, flattest categories. Hawaii and Alaska were not included in the study.)
Source: "The Flatness of U.S. States" by Jerome E. Dobson and Joshua S. Campbell.