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Brazil Geography

The northern part of Brazil is dominated by the basin of the Amazon River and its many tributaries, which occupies two-fifths of the country. The Amazon Basin itself occupies 7,049,975 sq km (2,722,000 sq mi), or about 40% of South America's total area. The Amazon River (Rio Amazonas) is, at 6,436 km (4,000 mi), the world's second-longest river after the Nile, although the Amazon ranks first in volume of water carried; rising in the Peruvian Andes, the Amazon eventually empties into the Atlantic Ocean at an average rate of about 198,000 cu m (7 million cu ft) per second. The Amazon lowlands east of the Andes constitute the world's largest tropical rain forest. In the northernmost part of the Amazon Basin lies a series of mountain ranges, known as the Guiana Highlands, where Brazil's highest mountain, Pico da Neblina (3,014 m/9,888 ft), is located. South of the Amazon Basin is a large plateau called the Brazilian Highlands, ranging in elevation from 300 to 910 m (1,000 to 3,000 ft) above sea level.

From the city of Salvador (Bahia) southward to Pôrto Alegre, the highlands meet the Atlantic Ocean in a steep, wall-like slope, the Great Escarpment, which in southeastern Brazil is surmounted by mountain ranges with elevations from 2,100 to 2,400 m (7,000 to 8,000 ft) above sea level.

The Atlantic coast of Brazil has no real coastal plain, but there are stretches of lowlands along the northeast coast, and there are many baylike indentations, where Brazil's principal cities are located. Along the southwest border is a small portion of the upper Paraguay lowlands. The Paraná, Paraguay, and Uruguay rivers flow through southern Brazil; the São Francisco flows 3,199 km (1,988 mi) through northeastern and central Brazil; and the Tocantins (2,698 km/1,677 mi) empties into the Pará and from there into the Atlantic Ocean at an estuary south of the Amazon proper.

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, 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), because of their elevation of approximately 1,000 meters. Rio de Janeiro, Recife and Salvador, located in the coast, have warm climates, with average temperatures ranging from 23 °C to 27 °C. 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 the 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.


Eastern South America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean

Geographic coordinates
10 00 S, 55 00 W

Map references
South America

total: 8,511,965 sq km
land: 8,456,510 sq km
water: 55,455 sq km
note: includes Arquipelago de Fernando de Noronha, Atol das Rocas, Ilha da Trindade, Ilhas Martin Vaz, and Penedos de Sao Pedro e Sao Paulo

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