Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

CNHI/Southeast Iowa

June 24, 2014

What state is the flattest?

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Quick: What’s the flattest state in the country?

No cheating, now. Just say the first state that pops into your mind when you’re asked which is flattest.

Kansas, you say? It’s certainly the most popular answer. And an article written about a decade ago concluded that Kansas is, quite literally, flatter than a pancake.

But nope, that’s not it, at least according to Dr. Jerome Dobson.

Online answers varied. Illinois, Kansas and Nebraska were guesses from Pella residents. One of those ranks high, but none are the flattest.

Then Anne Struyk sent her guess — Florida — to the Chronicle’s Facebook page. She was the first to get it right.

Dobson, lead author of “The Flatness of U.S. States,” said Florida is a state of “overwhelming flatness.” He has an interest in the issue (he’s a professor of geography for the University of Kansas), but he’s also president of the American Geographical Society.

Dobson’s study grew out of a desire to test whether perception matched reality when people think about which states are flattest. His study ran as an article for “Geographical Review.”

The analysis measured the continental U.S. in 90-meter cells. To put that in perspective, it’s taking a measurement roughly every 300 feet across the country.

So, where does Iowa rank. Guesses submitted to the Courier’s social media profiles put Iowa pretty high on the list, third or fourth were both submitted.

MaryAnn Nordyke wasn’t buying it. The state, she said, is “not so flat. Ask someone who rode RAGBRAI.”

She’s right. Iowa comes in 13th nationally for the percentage of the state rated as flat in Dobson’s study. It gets just a little bit higher for the percentage in the flattest category —12th — but that’s still behind states like Florida, Delaware and, yes, Kansas.

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