Chile is a republic located in southwestern South America. On the north side of Chile lies Peru, to the east is Bolivia and Argentina, and on the south Peru is bounded by the Pacific Ocean. The Archipelagoes Islands extend along the southern coast of Chile from Chiloé Island to Cape Horn. Among these islands are the Chonos Archipelago, Wellington Island, and the western portion of Tierra del Fuego. Some other islands that belong to Chile include the Juan Fernández Islands, Easter Island, and Sala y Gómez. All of these islands lie in the South Pacific. Chile also happens to claim a section of Antarctica. The capital and largest city of Chile is Santiago.
Land and Resources
The most dominant physical feature in Chile are the Andes Mountains, which extend the entire length of the country, from the Bolivian plateau in the north to Tierra del Fuego in the south.
Chile can be divided in to three topographic zones: the lofty Andean cordillera on the east; the low coastal mountains on the west; and the plateau area, which includes the Central Valley, between these ranges. Three major geographical and climatological regions can be distinguished: the northern (arid), central (Mediterranean), and southern (temperate marine) regions.
The ranges of the Andes are the widest in the northern region. This forms broad plateaus that contain the country's highest peak, Ojos del Salado, which is located on the border with Argentina. The plateau area is occupied by the great Atacama Desert, which contains vast nitrate fields and rich mineral deposits.
In the central region the plateau gives way to a valley, known as the Central valley. The valley, which ranges form 40 to 80 km (25 to 50 mi) in width, is the most heavily populated area of the country. The fertile area between the Aconcagua and Biobío rivers forms the agricultural heartland of Chile. The central Andes are narrower in width and have lower elevation that those in the north. The most important passes in the Andes are located here. The country's finest natural harbors are located in this region.
The southern region is without an interior valley; it disappears below the sea at Puerto Montt. Peaks of the submerged coastal mountains form the long chains of islands along the coast. Chile lies in a zone of geologic instability and is subject to earthquakes and volcanic activity.
RIVERS AND LAKES
The many rivers of Chile are relatively short, generally rising in the Andes and flowing west to the Pacific. In the northern and central regions primarily the snow feeds the rivers from the Andes. The most important rivers are the Loa, Elqui, Aconcagua, Maipo, Muale, Biobío, and Imperial. The rivers are vital for the irrigation waters and hydroelectric power they furnish. Many of Chile's major lakes, including Lake Llanquihue, are concentrated in the scenic district of the southern region
Because of its great latitudinal range, Chile has a diversity of climates. In general, temperatures are controlled by oceanic influences.
The northern region is almost entirely desert and is one of the driest areas in the world. Temperatures are moderated by the off shore presence of the cold Peru Current. The average temperatures in the northern region are around 70 (degrees F) in January and around 50 degrees in July. In the middle region, around Santiago, the average temperature ranges from 54 to 85 in January and 38 to 58 in July. The central region experiences a Mediterranean-like climate. The southern region is cooler and experiences year-round rainfall, much of it comes in the form snow. Here, strong winds and cyclonic storms are common.
The indigenous plant life of Chile varies according to climatic zone. The northern region has few varieties of vegetation. It is one of the Earth's best examples of absolute desert, producing only brambles and cacti. The more humid Central Valley yields several different types...
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