Geography of Peru
Peru is located in western South America between the Equator line and the Tropic of Capricorn, bordered in the west by the Pacific Ocean, in the north by Equador and Colombia, in the east by Brazil, in the southeast by Bolivia and in the south by Chile.
Area: 1'285,216 km2 - 496,225 sq mi
South American ranking: 3rd
World ranking: 20th
Peru is divided into three distinct areas:
Coast: 10% of the country aera - 55% of the population
Andes mountains: 30% of the country area - 32% of the population
Jungle: 60% of the country area - 13% of the population
It is a narrow strip of extending along the Pacific Ocean, with 2,414 km (1,500 mi) long and varies in width from 5 km / 2 mi (Arequipa region in the south) and 100 km / 60 mi (northern region of Piura).
The Peruvian coast is a desert, one of the most arid in the world, despite the existence of more or less fertile valleys formed by 53 rivers descending from the Andes.
Despite being located in a tropical zone, this arid and humid climate is explained by the presence of the Humboldt Current coming from Antarctica along the Chilean and Peruvian coasts. This cold current prevents the formation of rain clouds. To the east the vast Andes mountains not allowed to pass clouds from the Amazon rainforest.
It is the youngest mountain range (formed 70 million years ago) and the longest in the world with 7,500 km (4,660 mi). The term "Andes" derives from the Quechua word (Incas language) "Anti", the name of ethnic groups of this region, as in the prehispanic word "Antisuyo" that designates the eastern region of the Inca Empire, the Tahuantinsuyo (The Four Regions).
The Cordillera of the Andes extend from Cape Horn in the southern end of Chile and Argentina, forming a natural border between these countries, through Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela almost until the Caribbean Sea in the north.
The Andes are divided into several zones, the majors in Peru are:
The Cordillera Blanca (White Range) in the center of the country 300 km (180 mi) northeast of Lima, the Volcanic Cordillera in the region of Arequipa, the Cordillera Oriental (Eastern Range) in the region of Cusco and the Altiplano (Collao Plateau) where is the Lake Titicaca, a huge and high plateau (4,000 m / 13,000 ft) of 100,000 km2 / 40,000 sq mi, which extends from southern Peru, through Bolivia and to northern Argentina and Chile.
The Highest peak of Peru is located in the Cordillera Blanca (Ancash), the Huascaran - 6,768 m (22,199 ft) a.s.l., the 3rd highest of South America after the Aconcagua in Argentina (border with Chile) - 6,962 m (22,825 ft) and the Glacier Ojos del Salado (Argentina / Chile) - 6,891 m (22,602 ft) a.s.l.
The climate of the Andes is arid on its western part along the coast and sub-tropical in the east along the Amazon jungle. The snow appears only from the 5,500 meters (18,000 ft) a.s.l.
It is the largest part of Peru (60% of the country's area), but also the least populated with only 10% of the population.
The Peruvian jungle is the region with the most biodiversity and endemism (unique species) from the planet thanks to the variety of ecoregions and ecological levels.
The Peruvian Amazon is divided into two regions:
The Selva Baja (Lowland Junge) also known as Omagua or primary forest, is the largest region located between 80 and 400 m (260 - 1,300 ft) a.s.l., with a warm weather and high humidity.
The Selva Alta (Highland Jungle) also known as rupa rupa, located between 400 and 1,500 m (1,300 - 5,000 ft) a.s.l., with a temperate climate.
The geography of Peru is so complex that in 1941, the Pan American Institute of Geography and History, divided the country into 8 regions:
1 – Chala – between 0 and 500 m (0 - 1,640 ft) above sea level on the coast.
2 – Yunga – between 500 and 2,500 m (1,640 - 8,200 ft) a.s.l., on the western slope of the Andes.
3 – Quechua – between 2,500 and 3,500 m (8,200 - 11,500 ft), in the 2 slopes of the Andes.
4 – Suni – between 3,500 and 4,100 m (11,500 - 13,500 ft) a.s.l.
5 – Puna – between 4,100 and 4,800 m (13,500 - 15,750 ft), the Altiplano (Andean Highland).
6 – Janca (Cordillera) – over 4,800 m (15,750 ft) above sea level.
7 – Rupa Rupa (Highland Jungle) – between 500 and 1,500 m (1,640 - 4,900 ft) a.s.l., on the eastern slope of the Andes limit to Amazon Rainforest.
8 – Omagua (Lowland Jungle) – the vast Amazon plain under 500 m (1,640 ft) a.s.l.
In 1996, the Polish journalist and explorer Jacek Palkiewicz leads a multinational expedition to determine the course of the Amazon River in the department of Arequipa, southern Peru (first investigations of Commander Cousteau). The source of the river was located at one of the flanks of peak called Quehuisha (5,150 m / 16,892 ft a.s.l.) in the area called Quebrada Apacheta.
In June 2007, a Peruvian-Brazilian expedition with Peruvian investigators of IGN (National Geographic Institute) of INPE (National Institute for Space Research) and the Brazilian of ANA (National Institute of Water) confirmed Palkiewicz investigations.
This search has permitted calculate precisely the length of the Amazon River and with 7,062 km (4,388 mi), over 400 km (250 mi) longer than Nile riber in Africa (6,671 km - 4,145 mi) considered before as the longest in the world.
The Amazon River is not only the longest, is also the largest river by discharge of water in the world averaging a discharge of about 209,000 m3 / second (7,400,000 cu ft/s) greater than the next seven largest independent rivers combined (Congo, Ganges, Orinoco, Madeira, Yangtze, Negro y Rio de la Plata).
Like most of the rivers in Peru, the Amazon river changes its name depending to the regions it passes through. It is called Apurimac, Ene, Tambo, Ucayali, then meet another important river the Marañon and from the city of Iquitos (northern Peru) take the name of Amazonas to finish in the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil.
With three different natural regions, the desert coast, the Andes and the jungle, the climate of Peru is very diverse, with a large variety of microclimates, including 28 of the 32 world climates. Being a tropical country, the general climate is mild, with little variation between winter and summer.
Along the 2,400 km (1,500 mi) of the Pacific Coast, it seldom rains, in Lima for example, annual rainfall is 7 mm (0.3 in) per year. These low rainfall are known as garúa (drizzle), produced by the condensation of low clouds. The variation of temperature between day and night is low.
The main features of the Peruvian Andes are the absence of snow below 4000 m (13,000 ft) a.s.l., rare between 4,000 and 5,000 m (13,000 - 16,500 ft), and large variation of temperature between day and night. Always wear warm clothes during the excursions, since about 4:00 / 5:00 pm temperature decreases rapidly 10º to 15º C. the sun shines all year and UV rays are very intense. The rainy season is between November and March, the rest of the year is dry.
The weather if the Amazon rainforest is warm and humid, with strong, short and frequent rainfalls, more intense between December and March. The temperatures are usually between 28°C and 35°C (82º - 95º F).
Why the Peruvian coast receives almost no rain, while the country is situated in a tropical zone?
The cold Humboldt current flows from Antarctica along the Chilean and Peruvian coasts. The low water temperature cools the atmosphere not allowing enough evaporation to formation of rain clouds, causing the aridity of the coast and a temperate and humid weather, cloudy in winter (from June to October).
nevertheless, the cold water brings to the surface a large quantity of plankton, giving Peru the largest fishing productivity worldwide.
A strange phenomenon occurs in the jungle during the austral winter from June to September, the "Friajes". They are usually cold waves coming from the South Atlantic, mostly almost imperceptible. However, the temperature may suddenly drop to 10ºC (50ºF) during the day, for one or two days to a week
Peruvian fishermen have called this phenomenon "El Niño" (The Baby) refering to the Christ child because occurs during Christmas time.
It is a cyclical weather phenomenon (every three or four years) in northern Peru, caused by a warm ocean current from Ecuador (in the north), which overlaps the cold Humboldt Current from Antarctica. The Niño affects the climate of this region and provokes rains in the desert. El Niño also influences the global climate, causing drought, for example.
The phenomenon is generally minor, but every 15 years approx can be qualified as very strong: in 1982/83 and 1997/98, the Niño has been responsible for flooding in the desert in northern Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, United States, caused a severe drought in the southern Andes, South Africa, Asia and Australia, a decrease of temperature in the Amazon rainforest and the increase of hurricanes in the Pacific ocean.
Every millennium occurs a catastrophic "mega Niño" according to several theories, explaining the disappearance of civilizations as the Nazca for exemple.
Peru is located at the junction of two tectonic plates, the South American continental plate and the Nazca Plate (in the Pacific ocean).
The Nazca plate moves under the continental plate, average of 10 cm (4 in) per year, causing the formation of the Andes mountains 70 million years ago.
It is a highly seismic country and has volcanic regions mainly in the south. Peru forms part of the Pacific ring of fire.