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Spain Geography

Geography

Occupying most of the Iberian Peninsula's land area (approximately 85%), Spain is the third largest country in Europe and 45% is covered by the Meseta Plateau.

That plateau is rarely flat, and is in reality a mostly hilly highland area divided by the Cordillera Central (mountains), and then ringed by additional mountain ranges, north, east and south. In the west the Meseta slopes gently down into neighboring Portugal.

Significant mountains in Spain include the limestone Cordillera Cantabrica and rugged Sistema Iberico (north); massive Pyrenees (northeast) where many peaks exceed 3,000 meters; the deeply eroded and rocky Sierra de Cuenca (east), and the lower Montes de Toledo and Serrania de Cuenca (south-central).

In the far south the mountains of the Cordillera Betica and Sierra Nevada dominate the landscape. Mainland Spain's highest point (Mulhacen at 3,481 meters) stands in the Sierra Nevada.

Significant lowlands include the fertile Andalusian Plain in the southwest, and the Ebro River Basin in the northeast. In addition, much of Spain is fronted by a low and narrow coastal plain, one that separates the mountains from the sea.

Those deeply indented coastal areas include countless bays and coves, and most have sandy beaches. In the far northwest, along the Bay of Biscay, rugged cliffs front the coastline.

In the far south, the Strait of Gibraltar separates Spain and Europe from Morocco (Africa), and here, the two continents are only 13 km (8 miles) apart.

The country is drained by an estimated 1,500 rivers (mostly small). The longest and most significant rivers include the Douro (Duero), Ebro, Jucar, Tagus (Tejo), Guadiana and Guadalquivir.

Geography Spain

Location:

Southwestern Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay, Mediterranean Sea, North Atlantic Ocean, and Pyrenees Mountains, southwest of France

Geographic coordinates:

40 00 N, 4 00 W

Map references:

Europe

Area:

total: 504,782 sq km
land: 499,542 sq km
water: 5,240 sq km
note: there are 19 autonomous communities including Balearic Islands and Canary Islands, and three small Spanish possessions off the coast of Morocco - Islas Chafarinas, Penon de Alhucemas, and Penon de Velez de la Gomera

Area - comparative:

slightly more than twice the size of Oregon

Land boundaries:

total: 1,917.8 km
border countries: Andorra 63.7 km, France 623 km, Gibraltar 1.2 km, Portugal 1,214 km, Morocco (Ceuta) 6.3 km, Morocco (Melilla) 9.6 km

Coastline:

4,964 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm (applies only to the Atlantic Ocean)

Climate:

temperate; clear, hot summers in interior, more moderate and cloudy along coast; cloudy, cold winters in interior, partly cloudy and cool along coast

Terrain:

large, flat to dissected plateau surrounded by rugged hills; Pyrenees in north

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Pico de Teide (Tenerife) on Canary Islands 3,718 m

Natural resources:

coal, lignite, iron ore, copper, lead, zinc, uranium, tungsten, mercury, pyrites, magnesite, fluorspar, gypsum, sepiolite, kaolin, potash, hydropower, arable land

Land use:

arable land: 26.07%
permanent crops: 9.87%
other: 64.06% (2001)

Irrigated land:

36,400 sq km (1998 est.)

Natural hazards:

periodic droughts

Environment - current issues:

pollution of the Mediterranean Sea from raw sewage and effluents from the offshore production of oil and gas; water quality and quantity nationwide; air pollution; deforestation; desertification

Environment - international agreements:

party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, 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: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants

Geography - note:

strategic location along approaches to Strait of Gibraltar

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This page was last modified on August 13, 2015.