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Geography of Australia

Australia consists of two land masses: mainland Australia and Tasmania. It lies on and extends south from the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere between latitudes 10°41' and 43°39'S and longitudes 113°9' and 153°39'E.

It is bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Indian Ocean to the west, the Afarura Sea to the north, and the Southern Ocean to the south.

The nearest neighbour is Papua New Guinea, 200 kilometres to the north. Timor Leste is 640 kilometres to the north west, New Zealand is 1920 kilometres east, and Antartica is 2000 kilometres due south.

Size of Australia compared to Europe: MapArea

The area of Australia is 7 682300 square kilometres. Australia is about the size of the mainland United States excluding alaska, and approximately 24 times the size of the Brittish Isles.

Distances

Mainland east to west, 3983 kilometres, north to south, 3138 kilometres. Coastline including Tasmania and off-sure islands, 36,735 kilometres.

Climate

Australia is considered to be one of the driest continents on earth. However, because of its insular position and lack of natural features such as high mountain ranges, there are generally no extremes of climate. Climate varies because of the size of the continent.

The temperature ranges from 23°-26°C above the Tropic of Capricorn to 38°C in the arid plateaus and deserts of the interior. The southern areas are more temperate, although subject to wide variations such as high rainfall, great heat and irregular flooding and drought.

El Nino usually occurs in summer. Cold currents flow up the Peruvian coast from Antartica and are warmed by equatorial currents circulating across the Pacific from Australia. Warmed winds blowing across the current's surface pick up moisture and deposit it on the Peruvian coast. The warm winds proceed across the central Pacific and in turn deposit rain on eastern Australia.

Every three to eight years the equatorial current is exceedingly strong and noticably warmer off the coast of Peru, resulting in strong winds bringing heavy rains and floods. At this time, waters off Australia become noticably cooler and winds weaken and are turned towards the Pacific, reducing the rain-bearing clouds across eastern Australia, resulting in drought.

La Nina is the opposite phenomenon, which results in abnormally strong winds over the western Pacific blowing across unusually warm currents off the east coast of Australia, resulting in flooding rains.

Landform

Australia is one of the oldest continents, and because of the effects of 250 million years of erosion it has become the flattest land mass on earth. The shape of Australia was defined by the seperation and rifting of the Australian continent from the super-continent.

Gondwanaland about 70 million years ago. It is considered to be the most stable land mass in the world, being free of any major mountain building events for the past 80 million years.

Even so, Australia has a wide variety of landforms, mostly consisting of vast, ancient crustal blocks: the western plateau approximately 300 metres above sea level, the central eastern portion (a lowland which formed the bed of ancient seas), and the eastern highland running north and south along the eastern coastline.

The lowest elevation is Lake Eyre (16 metres below sea level) and the highest peak is Mt. Kosciuszko (2228 metres above sea level).