Although Alabama continues to reside in the lower segment nationally in many significant social and economic rankings, there has been improvement in some areas, particularly in ethnic relations, including the integration of schools and the election of African Americans to political offices.Nevertheless, Alabamians and outsiders alike tend to agree that the state retains a distinctive way of life, rooted in the traditions of the Old South. Population (2010) 4,779,736; (2017 est.) 4,874,747. Although the average elevation of Alabama is about 500 feet (150 metres) above sea level, this represents a gradation from the high point of 2,407 feet (734 metres), atop Cheaha Mountain in the northeast, down across the Black Belt to the flat, low southern Gulf Coast counties.Precipitation is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, with an annual average of 56 inches (1,420 mm) and a concentration on the coast. These favourable conditions have given the state a long growing season, ranging from about 200 days in the north to some 300 days in the south.Alabama is subject to severe weather, especially during the warmer months.It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, and Mississippi to the west. The rich agricultural valley of the Tennessee River occupies the extreme northern part of the state.The Florida panhandle blocks Alabama’s access to the Gulf of Mexico except in Alabama’s southwestern corner, where Mobile Bay is located. In northeastern Alabama the broken terrain of the southwestern fringe of the Appalachian Mountains begins and continues in a southwesterly progression across the northern half of the state.Elevations rise to 1,800 feet (550 metres) in the more rugged eastern portions.The Great Appalachian Valley forms another marked division to the east.
Farther south lie the varied soils of a mineral belt, and these are succeeded by the rich limestone and marl soils of the Black Belt.
Sweet gum and black walnut are also common, while the colourful red cedar is most abundant in the Tennessee valley and the Black Belt, with stately black cypress clustering around rivers and ponds.