Africa’s Physical Geography
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Published: Thu, 04 May 2017
Africa’s Physical Geography
Africa is a continent rich in beauty, culture, and wealth. It has several diverse and singularly captivating landscapes including vast savannah and desert, lush rainforest, and sun-kissed beaches. There is potential for great wealth and prosperity, due to the resources in this luminous continent.
North and South Africa are split into almost two equal parts by the equator, and the climate and physical features in both the north and the south repeat themselves. For example, the Sahara and Kalahari deserts, the Cape region and the Mediterranean, and the Karoo and the Maghreb. It is incredibly hot in most places, and insanely bright.
Although it is so diverse, Africa is mainly made up of rolling flat plateaus. There is not a great variety of physical features, though those that are there can be quite remarkable. Compared to other continents, there are few broad coastal plains. It is an enormous mass of land, connecting at the Isthmus of Suez to Asia and almost to Europe at Gibraltar. Africa is the only continent which lies in all four hemispheres, lying on the equator at zero degrees latitude and Prime Meridian at zero degrees longitude. It has no deep indentations and very few well defined peninsulas.
Africa is surrounded by major bodies of water such as the Mediterranean Sea in the north, the Red Sea in the northeast, the Atlantic Ocean in the west, and the Indian Ocean in the southeast. The coast, stretching 18,900 miles is largely level. There are few islands, Madagascar being the largest and the thirteen Canary islands being the largest group.
The major landforms of Africa include the Nile River System, Atlas Mountains, Great Rift Valley, Sahel, Congo River Basin, Kalahari Desert, and the Sahara Desert.
The Nile River is the longest river in the world with a length of 4,160 miles. It runs north, rising from the highlands of the southeast, and then draining into the Mediterranean Sea. It is made up of multifarious dams, rapids, streams, swamps, rivers, rapids, and tributaries. The major rivers making up the Nile are the Albert Nile, Blue Nile, White Nile, and the Victoria Nile. The great Nile River is a lifeline for the inhabitants on its banks. It provides nourishment for crops which are both food and a means of business.
The Atlas Mountains are located in Northern Africa and stretch from southwestern Morocco across the coast of the Mediterranean, to the extreme east of Tunisia. These mountains are made up of several smaller mountain ranges namely, the High Atlas, Middle Atlas, and Maritime Atlas. The highest in the entire range is Mt. Toubkal located in western Morocco at a height of 13,671 feet.
The Great Rift Valley is a dramatic depression in the surface of the earth which extends from an area near the Red Sea in Jordan in the Middle East, to the country of Mozambique in Africa, which is a length of about approximately 4,000 miles. The Great Rift Valley is essentially a series of depressions caused by volcanic activity thousands of years ago, which also created what is now called the Ethiopian Highlands. Some of the highest peaks in the continent are found in the Great Rift Valley including Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, and Mount Margherita.
The Sahel is a great expanse of land running across north and central Africa, across the extreme southern Sahara. The Sahel is the transition between the desert conditions of the north and the tropical conditions of the south. The region receives very little rainfall, about six to eight inches annually, and vegetation is relatively sparse.
The Congo River Basin dominates the landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo and a large portion of neighboring Congo. It also stretches into Angola, the Central Republic of Africa, Cameroon, and Zambia. This fertile basin contains about twenty percent of the world’s rainforest. The Congo River Basin is about 1,400,000 square miles in size. The Congo River is the second longest river in Africa and is made up of multiple tributaries, streams, and rivers that help intertwine the people in the cities along the banks of these waterways.
The Kalahari is the major desert of southern Africa. It extends about 100,000 square miles and covers much of Botswana, the southwestern region of South Africa, and all of western Namibia. Dry river beds and shrubs crisscross along the desert plateau. A few small mountain ranges are located in the Kalahari Desert: the Karas and the Huns. The Kalahari Gemsbok Wildlife National Park in southern Africa near the border of Namibia hosts large herds of animals.
The Sahara Desert covers about one-third of Africa, making it the largest desert in Africa and is around 3,500,000 square miles in total size. Elevations range from one hundred feet below sea level to mountains which exceed 11,000 feet (the Ahaggar and Tibetsi mountains). The Libyan, Western desert of Egypt, and Nubian deserts are regional deserts located just west of the Nile. The area receives almost absolutely no rainfall, although a few rivers flow from the Atlas Mountains underground which assist in irrigating alienated oases. The water of the Nile helps fertilize the eastern parts of the landscape.
These landforms occupy a large section of the land, and the climate, resources, and vegetation of these are similar to those of the countries they stretch through. The people are largely reliant on the natural resources the earth yields in their country. Agriculture makes up a huge part of the economies of several countries. Each country has its own unique characteristics and although each separate one cannot be listed here, it is accurate to say that Africa is a diverse country which could be rich due to the resources the breathtaking country yields, and which the inhabitants can manipulate to their profit.
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