Geography of Portugal: Wikis


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Geography of Portugal
Continent Europe
Region Southern Europe
Iberian Peninsula
Coordinates 38°43'N 8°5'W
Area Ranked 110th
92,391 km2 (35,672.4 sq mi)
99.52% land
0.48 % water
Borders Total land borders: Spain (1214 km)
Highest point Mount Pico
2351 m
Lowest point Atlantic Ocean
0 m (0 ft)
(sea level)
Longest river Tagus (275 km in Portugal proper), 47 km as border with Spain)

Portugal is a coastal nation in southwestern Europe. Its mainland is located on the Iberian Peninsula and borders only Spain, to the east and north, with a total of 1,214 km (754 mi) of borders. Despite this total of km for the border with Spain, Portugal does not recognise the border from the delta of the River Caia to the delta of the River Cuncos since 1801's occupation of the Olivença territory by the Spanish Kingdom. This territory, though under Spanish occupation remains part of Portugal and no border is henceforth recognised in this area. It is bordered on the west with a 1,793 km (1,114 mi) coastline along the North Atlantic Ocean. Portugal also controls the Atlantic islands of Azores and Madeira Islands, which are strategic locations along western sea approaches to the Strait of Gibraltar between the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. In total, the country has an area of 92,090 km2 (35,560 sq mi) of which 91,470 km2 (35,320 sq mi) is land and 620 km2 (240 sq mi) water.[1]

Coordinates: 38°43′N 8°5′W / 38.717°N 8.083°W / 38.717; -8.083



Maritime claims:
continental shelf: 200 m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 nmi (370.4 km; 230.2 mi)
territorial sea: 12 nmi (22.2 km; 13.8 mi)

Natural hazards: The Azores are occasionally subject to very strong earthquakes, as is the continental coast. Wildfires occur mostly in the summer in mainland Portugal and extreme weather in the form of strong winds and floods also occurs mainly in winter. The Azores are occasionally stricken by tropical cyclones such as Hurricane Jeanne (1998) and Hurricane Gordon (2006).

The continent

Continental Portugal is split in two by its main river, the Tagus (Tejo). To the north the landscape is mountainous in the interior areas with plateaus, cut by four breakings lines that allow the development of more fertile agricultural areas.

The south down as far as the Algarve features mostly rolling plains with a climate somewhat warmer and drier than the cooler and rainier north. Other major rivers include the Douro, the Minho and the Guadiana, similar to the Tagus in that all originate in Spain. Another important river, the Mondego, originates in the Serra da Estrela (the highest mountains in mainland Portugal at 1,993 m).

No large natural lakes exist in Continental Portugal, where the largest inland water surfaces are dam-originated reservoirs, (such as the Alqueva reservoir with 250 km2, the largest in Europe). However, there are several lagoons in Portugal with a river as origin:

  • in Serra da Estrela, the Comprida Lagoon (Lagoa Comprida) and the Escura Lagoon (Lagoa Escura) were formed from ancient glaciers.
  • the Pateira de Fermentelos is a small natural lagoon near Aveiro

Some lagoons are near the Atlantic Ocean. For instance, the Albufeira Lagoon (in the Setúbal Peninsula) and Óbidos Lagoon (near Foz do Arelho, Óbidos). In the Azores archipelago lagoons were formed in extinct volcanos. Lagoa do Fogo and Lagoa das Sete Cidades (two small lakes connected by a narrow passage) are the most famous lakes in São Miguel Island.

The Islands

In addition to continental Europe, Portugal consists of two Autonomous Regions in the Atlantic Ocean, consisting of the archipelagos of Madeira and Azores. Madeira is located on the African Tectonic Plate, and comprises the main island of Madeira, Porto Santo and the smaller Savage Islands. The Azores, which are located between the junction of the African, European and North American Plates, straddle the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. There are nine islands in this archipelago, usually divided into three groups (Western, Central and Eastern) and several smaller Formigas (rock outcroppings) located between São Miguel and Santa Maria Islands. Both island groups are volcanic in nature, with historic volcanology and seismic activity persisting to the present time. In addition, there are several submarine volcanos in the Azores (such as Dom João de Castro Bank), that have erupted historically (such as the Serrata eruption off the coast of Terceira Island. The last major volcanic event occurred in 1957-58 along the western coast of Faial Island, which formed the Capelinhos Volcano. Seismic events are common in the Azores.

The Coast

Hot, dry conditions sparked dozens of devastating wildfires in southern and central Portugal and central Spain in the summer of 2003. By the time this image was taken on January 19, 2004, the scars had begun to fade in areas, though the scars in Central Portugal and across the border in Spain are still dark red in the false-color image.

The Portuguese coast is extensive, it has 943 km (586 mi) in continental Portugal, 667 km in the Azores, 250 km in Madeira and in the Savage Islands. The Portuguese coast developed fine beaches, the Algarve ones are worldwide famous. In Porto Santo Island, a dune formation is appealing to many tourists. An important feature in its coast is the Ria de Aveiro (near Aveiro, a town called "The Portuguese Venice"), a delta with 45 km in length and a maximum of 11 km width, rich in fish and sea birds. There are four main channels, between them several islands and islets, and it is where Vouga, Antuã, Boco, and Fontão rivers meet the ocean. Since the 16th century, the formation of a sort of narrow headlands formed a lagoon, seen as one of the most remarkable hydrographic features of the Portuguese coast. Due to these characteristics, the region is an ancient producer of a famous salt, and during the Roman Empire it exported its salt to Rome, seen as a precious product. Another interesting feature of the Portuguese coast is Ria Formosa, located in the Algarve, with some sandy islands and a mild and pleasant climate characterized by warm but not very hot summers and generally mild winters.

Exclusive Economic Zone

Portugal Exclusive Economic Zone

Portugal has the 3rd largest Exclusive Economic Zone of the EU and the 11th in the world. The seazone over which the Portuguese have special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, has 1,727,408 km².


Azores is Portugal's westernmost territory
Praia da Marinha (English: Beach of the Navy) near Lagoa city, Algarve.

Portugal has a Mediterranean climate, Csa in the south and Csb in the north, according to the Köppen climate classification. The annual average temperature in mainland Portugal varies from 12 °C (53.6 °F)-13 °C (55.4 °F) in the mountainous interior north to 17 °C (62.6 °F)-18 °C (64.4 °F) in the south (in general the south is warmer and drier than the north). The Madeira and Azores archipelagos have a narrower temperature range with the annual average temperature sometimes exceeding 20 °C (68 °F) in the south coast of Madeira Island. Extreme temperatures occur in the mountains in the northeast of the country in winter, where they may fall to −15 °C (5.0 °F), and in southeastern parts in the summer, sometimes exceeding 45 °C (113 °F). The official absolute extreme temperatures are −16 °C (3.2 °F) in Penhas da Saúde on 4 February 1954 and 47.4 °C (117.3 °F) in Amareleja in the Alentejo region, on 1 August 2003.[2] There are, however, unofficial records of 50.5 °C (122.9 °F) on 4 August 1881 in Riodades, São João da Pesqueira [3]. It's very plausible since this region is known for its microclimate. The annual average rainfall varies from a bit more than 3,000 mm (118.1 in) in the mountains in the north to less than 600 mm (23.6 in) in southern parts of Alentejo. The country has around 2500-3200 hours of sunshine a year, an average of 4-6h in winter and 10-12h in the summer, with higher values in the southeast and lower in the northwest. The sea surface temperature is higher in the south coast where it varies from 15 °C (59 °F)-16 °C (60.8 °F) in January to 22 °C (71.6 °F)-23 °C (73.4 °F) in August, occasionally reaching 25 °C (77 °F); on the west coast the sea surface temperature is around 14 °C (57.2 °F)-15 °C (59.0 °F) in winter and 18 °C (64.4 °F)-20 °C (68 °F) in the summer, with higher values as one goes southwards.

Both the Azores and the Madeira Islands have a subtropical climate with mild, rainy winters and mainly dry, warm summers. The Savage Islands, that belong to the Madeira archipelago, have an arid climate with an annual average rainfall of around 150 mm (5.9 in). The sea surface temperatures in these archipelagos vary from 16 °C (60.8 °F)-18 °C (64.4 °F) in winter to 23 °C (73.4 °F)-24 °C (75.2 °F) in the summer, occasionally reaching 26 °C (78.8 °F).


Environment - current issues: soil erosion; air pollution caused by industrial and vehicle emissions; water pollution, especially in coastal areas

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Environmental Modification, Nuclear Test Ban

Terrain: mountainous and hilly north of the Tagus River, rolling plains in south

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Ponta do Pico (Pico or Pico Alto) on Ilha do Pico in the Azores 2,351 m

Natural resources: fish, forests (cork), tungsten, iron ore, uranium ore, marble, arable land, hydroelectric power

Land use:
arable land: 26%
permanent crops: 9%
permanent pastures: 9%
forests and woodland: 36%
other: 20% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 6,300 km² (1993 est.)

See also


  1. ^ "Portugal". CIA - The World Factbook. Retrieved 2009-11-28. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Dan dan the weatherman

Sources and further reading

  • Visible Earth. NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center. [2]. A collection of satellite images of Portugal and the surrounding region.
  • "Portugal." CIA World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. [3].
  • Symington, Martin. Portugal (Eyewitness Travel Guide series). Dorling Kindersley Publishing: 2003. ISBN 0-7894-9423-X.


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