Ecuador Geography

What is the terrain and geography like in Ecuador?

Overview:

Ecuador straddles the Equator, its namesake, on the west coast of South America. Two north-south ranges of the Andes Mountains divide the country into three distinct sections: the Costa, a belt of tropical lowlands 10–100 miles wide along the Pacific coast, where Guayaquil, the major city, is located; the Sierra, a highland plateau 3,000–10,000 feet high, where Quito is located; and the Oriente, jungle lowlands east of the Andes that make up about half the country’s area. In addition, the Galapagos Islands (Archipelago de Colon) lie 640 miles off the coast. The nine main islands are inhabited by some 15,000 people and an amazing variety of wildlife that has fascinated scientists ever since Charles Darwin visited there in 1836.

Most of Ecuador is covered by equatorial forests. The rest consists of cultivated agricultural areas, some arid scrubland near the coast, and barren mountain ranges with 22 peaks over 14,000 feet high. These peaks include Chimborazo (20,561 ft.) and Cotopaxi, which is the second highest active volcano in the world (19,347 ft.). The spectacular array of snowcapped volcanoes stretching north and south of Quito has been called the "Avenue of Volcanoes," and on a clear day the view from an airplane is breathtaking. On the Pacific slope the principal rivers are the Esmeraldas and the Guayas. Eastern Ecuador is part of the Amazon watershed. Its principal rivers are the Napo and Pastaza Rivers. None of the Amazon tributaries in Ecuador are navigable by oceangoing vessels.

Geography - note:

Cotopaxi in Andes is highest active volcano in world

Climate:

Because of variations in altitude, Ecuador has a variety of climates. The lowlands are generally hot and humid. Temperatures on the coast are moderated by the Humboldt Current to a range of 65°F to 90°F. Temperatures in the Sierra are generally cool, ranging from 35°F to 75°F. Due to the altitude and thin air, temperature in direct sunlight can reach 85°F at midday. In the evenings it can range from pleasantly cool to very chilly. The tallest mountains are always snowcapped, but it never snows in the inhabited altitudes, although it hails occasionally. During the Sierra dry season, from June through September, gusty winds are common.


In Quito the temperature pattern rarely changes from day to day or month to month. Mornings are cool and crisp, and midday is agreeably warm, unless skies are overcast. Fog and mist may occur in the mornings or evenings as low-lying clouds spill over the sides of the valley. Since Quito is such a short distance from the Equator, sunrise and sunset vary only slightly from 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Average annual rainfall in Quito is 50 inches, with 43 inches falling from October through May, and 7 inches from June through September. Relative humidity averages 75%. Occasional tremors are registered in the area; these may or may not be perceptible to residents. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are infrequent but do remain a possibility.

Ecuador Use of Natural Resources

Ecuador Environment

Climate:

Because of variations in altitude, Ecuador has a variety of climates. The lowlands are generally hot and humid. Temperatures on the coast are moderated by the Humboldt Current to a range of 65°F to 90°F. Temperatures in the Sierra are generally cool, ranging from 35°F to 75°F. Due to the altitude and thin air, temperature in direct sunlight can reach 85°F at midday. In the evenings it can range from pleasantly cool to very chilly. The tallest mountains are always snowcapped, but it never snows in the inhabited altitudes, although it hails occasionally. During the Sierra dry season, from June through September, gusty winds are common.


In Quito the temperature pattern rarely changes from day to day or month to month. Mornings are cool and crisp, and midday is agreeably warm, unless skies are overcast. Fog and mist may occur in the mornings or evenings as low-lying clouds spill over the sides of the valley. Since Quito is such a short distance from the Equator, sunrise and sunset vary only slightly from 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Average annual rainfall in Quito is 50 inches, with 43 inches falling from October through May, and 7 inches from June through September. Relative humidity averages 75%. Occasional tremors are registered in the area; these may or may not be perceptible to residents. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are infrequent but do remain a possibility.

Terrain:

coastal plain (costa), inter-Andean central highlands (sierra), and flat to rolling eastern jungle (oriente)

Natural Resources:

petroleum, fish, timber, hydropower

Natural Hazards:

frequent earthquakes, landslides, volcanic activity; floods; periodic droughts

Irrigated Land:

3,295 Square Miles
8,534 Square Kilometers

Environmental Issues:

deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; water pollution; pollution from oil production wastes in ecologically sensitive areas of the Amazon Basin and Galapagos Islands

Environment - International Agreements:

party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Ecuador Geography

Geographic Location South America
Total Area 109,483 Square Miles
283,561 Square Kilometers
Land Area 106,888 Square Miles
276,841 Square Kilometers
Water Area 2,595 Square Miles
6,720 Square Kilometers
Land Boundaries 1,249 Miles
2,010 Kilometers
Irrigated Land 3,295 Square Miles
8,534 Square Kilometers
Border Countries Colombia 590 km, Peru 1,420 km
Coastline 1,390 Miles
2,237 Kilometers
Geographic Coordinates 2 00 S, 77 30 W
Terrain coastal plain (costa), inter-Andean central highlands (sierra), and flat to rolling eastern jungle (oriente)
Highest Point 6,267 Meters
Highest Point Location Chimborazo 6,267 m
Lowest Point Location Pacific Ocean 0 m
Natural Resources petroleum, fish, timber, hydropower
Time Zone UTC-5 (same time as Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
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