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 results in climates that vary from moist temperate rainforest in the north, to arid desert in the interior, as well as snowy alpine in the mountains.
In January 1776, it became the first of the British North American colonies to establish a government independent of the Kingdom of Great Britain's authority, and it was the first to establish its own state constitution. Six months later, it became one of the original 13 states that founded the United States of America, and in June 1788 it was the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, bringing that document into effect.