Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Geography and Climate

The climate can be classified as Oceanic in the north and Mediterranean in the south. One of the warmest European countries, yearly temperature averages in mainland Portugal are 13°C (55°F) in the north and 18°C (64°F) in the south. The Madeira and Azores Atlantic archipelagos have a narrower temperature range. Spring and summer are sunny, whereas autumn and winter are rainy and windy.
Mainland Portugal is split by its main river, the Tagus. The northern landscape is mountainous in interior areas, with plateaus indented by river valleys. The south, between the Tagus and the Algarve (the Alentejo), features mostly rolling plains and a climate somewhat warmer and drier than in the cooler and rainier north. The Algarve, separated from the Alentejo by mountains, enjoys a Mediterranean climate like southern Spain. Snow is usual in the northern half of the country, around the 40 N parallel. It is a rare event in the south, but it does happen.
The islands of the Azores and Madeira are located in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Some islands have had volcanic activity as recently as 1957. Portugal's highest point is Mount Pico on Pico Island. It is an ancient volcano measuring 2,351 m (7,713 ft)