France Geography

France geography

France, the second largest country in Europe, is partially covered central, north and west by a relatively flat plain that's punctuated by some time-worn low rolling hills and mountains.

Rugged cliffs front its coastline along the English Channel. There, to the northwest of Caen, the Cotentin Peninsula shields the Channel Islands, while a bit further to the west, the Brittany Peninsula juts into the Atlantic Ocean. Assorted coastal islands dot the western coastline south of Brest, where white-sandy beaches stretch along the Atlantic Ocean to the border with Spain.

A few scattered islands are found along the pebbled beaches of the Mediterranean coast. Corsica, a mountainous island and the country's largest island, is located 160 km (99 miles) southeast of Nice.

Mountains dominate eastern, south central and southern France, including the snowcapped Alps that stretch along its border with Italy, then on into Switzerland and across southern Europe. The country's highest point, and the second highest point in Europe is located here; Mont Blanc at 15,770 ft. (4,807m)

Further to the north the limestone peaks of the Jura range front the country's eastern border with Switzerland. The heavily forested Vosges Mountains in the far-northeast stretch along the Rhine River valley.

In the far-southeast, directly to the west of Nice and dissected by the Verdon River, stands the Gorges du Verdon. This spectacular and massive canyon is up to 700 meters deep in places, and about 11 miles long.

Volcanic in origin, the Massif Central is a mountainous plateau divided by steep canyons and valleys. These mountains (or Massifs) stretch south toward the Mediterranean Sea. The Pyrenees, a jagged mountain range, covers the entire southern borders with Andorra and Spain

The country is drained by dozens and dozens of rivers. The longest river in France is the Loire at 630 miles (1,020 km) in length. Other significant rivers include the Garonne, Lot, Rhine, Rhone Seine, each with many smaller tributaries.

For a colorful and most interesting view of the topography of France, view this map.

Geography France
Location: Western Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay and English Channel, between Belgium and Spain, southeast of the UK; bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and Spain

Geographic coordinates:

46 00 N, 2 00 E

Map references:

Europe

Area:

total: 547,030 sq km
land: 545,630 sq km
water: 1,400 sq km
note: includes only metropolitan France; excludes the overseas administrative divisions

Area - comparative:

slightly less than twice the size of Colorado

Land boundaries:

total: 2,889 km
border countries: Andorra 56.6 km, Belgium 620 km, Germany 451 km, Italy 488 km, Luxembourg 73 km, Monaco 4.4 km, Spain 623 km, Switzerland 573 km

Coastline:

3,427 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm (does not apply to the Mediterranean)
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation

Climate:

generally cool winters and mild summers, but mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as mistral

Terrain:

mostly flat plains or gently rolling hills in north and west; remainder is mountainous, especially Pyrenees in south, Alps in east

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Rhone River delta -2 m
highest point: Mont Blanc 4,807 m

Natural resources:

coal, iron ore, bauxite, zinc, uranium, antimony, arsenic, potash, feldspar, fluorospar, gypsum, timber, fish

Land use:

arable land: 33.53%
permanent crops: 2.07%
other: 64.4% (2001)

Irrigated land:

20,000 sq km (1998 est.)

Natural hazards:

flooding; avalanches; midwinter windstorms; drought; forest fires in south near the Mediterranean

Environment - current issues:

some forest damage from acid rain; air pollution from industrial and vehicle emissions; water pollution from urban wastes, agricultural runoff

Environment - international agreements:

party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, 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, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note:

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Note: The information tabled directly above was researched by and provided by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency

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