Geography and climate in Brazil
June 20, 2007 3:01pm CST
Brazil is characterized by the extensive low-lying Amazon Rainforest in the north and a more open terrain of hills and low mountains to the south — home to most of the Brazilian population and its agricultural base. Along the Atlantic coast are also found several mountain ranges, reaching roughly 2,900 meters (9,500 ft) high. The highest peak is the 3,014 meter (9,735 ft) Pico da Neblina (Misty Peak) in Guiana's highlands . Major rivers include the Amazon, the largest river in the world in flowing water volume, and the second-longest in the world; the Paraná and its major tributary, the Iguaçu River, where the Iguaçu Falls are located; the Negro, São Francisco, Xingu, Madeira and the Tapajós rivers. Located mainly within the tropics, Brazil's climate has little seasonal variation. In southernmost Brazil, however, there is subtropical temperate weather, occasionally experiencing frost and snow in the higher regions. Precipitation is abundant in the humid Amazon Basin, but more arid landscapes are found as well, particularly in the northeast. A number of islands in the Atlantic Ocean are part of Brazil: Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago, Rocas Atoll, Fernando de Noronha and Trindade and Martim Vaz. Although 90% of the country is within the tropical zone, the climate of Brazil varies considerably from the mostly tropical North (the equator traverses the mouth of the Amazon) to temperate zones below the Tropic of Capricorn (23°27' S latitude), which crosses the country at the latitude of the city of São Paulo. Brazil has five climatic regions: equatorial, tropical, semiarid, highland tropical, and subtropical. Temperatures along the equator are high, averaging above 25 °C, but not reaching the summer extremes of up to 40 °C in the temperate zones. There is little seasonal variation near the equator, although at times it can get cool enough for wearing a jacket, especially in the rain. At the country's other extreme, there are frosts south of the Tropic of Capricorn during the winter (June-August), and in some years there is snow in the mountainous areas, such as Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina. Temperatures in the cities of São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, and Brasília are moderate (usually between 15 °C and 30 °C), despite their relatively low latitude, because of their elevation of approximately 1,000 meters. Rio de Janeiro, Recife, and Salvador on the coast have warm climates, with average temperatures ranging from 23 °C to 27 °C, but enjoy constant trade winds. The southern cities of Porto Alegre and Curitiba have a subtropical climate similar to that in parts of the United States and Europe, and temperatures can fall under zero degrees Celsius in winter. Precipitation levels vary widely. Most of Brazil has moderate rainfall of between 1,000 and 1,500 millimeters a year, with most of the rain falling in the summer (between December and April) south of the Equator. The Amazon region is notoriously humid, with rainfall generally more than 2,000 millimeters per year and reaching as high as 3,000 millimeters in parts of the western Amazon and near Belém. It is less widely known that, despite high annual precipitation, the Amazon rain forest has a three- to five-month dry season, the timing of which varies according to location north or south of the equator.