Mali Geography

What is the terrain and geography like in Mali?

Overview:

The Republic of Mali is located in the interior of West Africa, north of the Equator, reaching to the Tropic of Cancer. It is landlocked, sharing borders with seven other African nations. The capital city of Bamako lies at an elevation between 950 and 1,000 feet.

Mali stretches across three different climatic regions. To the south is tropical Sudanese savanna, wooded grasslands broken occasionally by cliffs and rock formations, watered by the Niger and Senegal Rivers and their tributaries. In the middle are the semi-arid steppe-lands of the Sahel. Dry, sandy plains dotted with sparse trees and bushes and a vast plateau broken by isolated rocky masses characterize this transitional zone between the savanna and the desert to the north. This middle area comprises the rock buttes of Hombori, as well as the Bandiagara escarpment, famous as the home of the Dogon people. The desert zone in the north covers the largest area of Mali and is a hot, barren plain whose terrain is contoured by sand dunes and rocky outcroppings with little vegetation other than occasional patches of thorn bush.

Mali has two large river systems, the Senegal and the Niger. The Senegal River crosses into Mali from Guinea in the south and follows a northwest course into Senegal. The Niger River flows through the heart of Mali and serves as its most important waterway. The river courses 2,600 miles, the third longest in Africa, and played a large role in European exploration of Africa. The Niger flows northeast to the edge of the Sahara at Timbuktu where it turns east and then south, passing the town of Gao before entering Niger. The Niger is navigable from Koulikoro to Gao by large riverboats from August to November and by smaller craft for most of the rest of the year. Just beyond the Mali-Niger border, rapids prevent the riverboats from going further downstream into Niger.

Geography - note:

landlocked; divided into three natural zones: the southern, cultivated Sudanese; the central, semiarid Sahelian; and the northern, arid Saharan

Climate:

There are two primary seasons in West Africa. The dry period can be further divided into two distinct seasons, mild and hot, particularly in the savanna and Sahelian regions of Mali. The rainy season usually begins in June and continues into October. Almost all of the annual rainfall occurs during this time. As much as 60-80 inches of rain may fall in the southern savanna but rainfall is lower further north. Temperatures range from 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (21-40°C). The cool season lasts from December to mid-February, when temperatures range from 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night to the mid-80s (about 28-34°C) during the day. The hot season starts in mid-February and goes into June. The air is dry, dusty, and very hot; temperatures often reach over 100 degrees (40°C) and clouds of dust hang in the air. This is the season of the harmattan, the dry, sandy wind that brings dust clouds southwards from the Sahara.

Mali Use of Natural Resources

Mali Environment

Climate:

There are two primary seasons in West Africa. The dry period can be further divided into two distinct seasons, mild and hot, particularly in the savanna and Sahelian regions of Mali. The rainy season usually begins in June and continues into October. Almost all of the annual rainfall occurs during this time. As much as 60-80 inches of rain may fall in the southern savanna but rainfall is lower further north. Temperatures range from 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (21-40°C). The cool season lasts from December to mid-February, when temperatures range from 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night to the mid-80s (about 28-34°C) during the day. The hot season starts in mid-February and goes into June. The air is dry, dusty, and very hot; temperatures often reach over 100 degrees (40°C) and clouds of dust hang in the air. This is the season of the harmattan, the dry, sandy wind that brings dust clouds southwards from the Sahara.

Terrain:

mostly flat to rolling northern plains covered by sand; savanna in south, rugged hills in northeast

Natural Resources:

gold, phosphates, kaolin, salt, limestone, uranium, hydropower

Natural Hazards:

hot, dust-laden harmattan haze common during dry seasons; recurring droughts; occasional Niger River flooding

Irrigated Land:

910 Square Miles
2,358 Square Kilometers

Environmental Issues:

deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; inadequate supplies of potable water; poaching

Environment - International Agreements:

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Mali Geography

Geographic Location Africa
Total Area 478,838 Square Miles
1,240,192 Square Kilometers
Land Area 471,115 Square Miles
1,220,190 Square Kilometers
Water Area 7,723 Square Miles
20,002 Square Kilometers
Land Boundaries 4,501 Miles
7,243 Kilometers
Irrigated Land 910 Square Miles
2,358 Square Kilometers
Border Countries Algeria 1,376 km, Burkina Faso 1,000 km, Guinea 858 km, Cote d'Ivoire 532 km, Mauritania 2,237 km, Niger 821 km, Senegal 419 km
Geographic Coordinates 17 00 N, 4 00 W
Terrain mostly flat to rolling northern plains covered by sand; savanna in south, rugged hills in northeast
Highest Point 1,155 Meters
Highest Point Location Hombori Tondo 1,155 m
Lowest Point 23 Meters
Lowest Point Location Senegal River 23 m
Natural Resources gold, phosphates, kaolin, salt, limestone, uranium, hydropower
Time Zone UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
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