South Africa Geography

What is the terrain and geography like in South Africa?

Overview:

South Africa lies at the southern tip of the African continent. South Africa has a narrow coastal zone and an extensive interior plateau with altitudes ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level. Lacking arterial rivers or lakes of significance, extensive water conservation and controls are necessary. South Africa is divided into nine provinces: the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Northwest and Limpopo Provinces.

Both Pretoria and Johannesburg are situated on a high plateau in Gauteng Province. The surrounding countryside is characterized by relatively treeless, rolling hills. The Magaliesberg Mountain Range, more accurately described as a series of low rising hills, lies 30 miles to the north or northeast. The large Hartbeespoort Dam is located in this area. The more impressive Drakensberg Mountains are located 200 miles to the south, where peaks soar to 11,000 feet in neighboring Lesotho. The pine-studded Lebombo Mountains form the eastern boundary of the Johannesburg Consular District in Mpumalanga Province.

Scenery in the Free State is flat, with a few buttes in the eastern part of the province. Bloemfontein is the provincial capital and the judicial capital of South Africa.
Durban, located on the eastern seaboard of the Indian Ocean, is the principal city in KwaZulu-Natal province and the largest seaport in Africa. Its shoreline extends northeast to southwest along the Indian Ocean. Topographically, the coastal belt of KwaZulu-Natal rises sharply from the ocean to a fertile central plateau and then extends to the escarpment of the Drakensberg Mountains.

The Western Cape has the widest range of scenic attractions, including the Mediterranean-like luxuriance of the Cape Peninsula, rolling uplands to the east, excellent surfing beaches, the majestic peaks of the Katberg, the placid lakes of the Wilderness on the south coast of the picturesque Garden Route, and the vast, arid distances of the Karoo to the north and east.

Geography - note:

South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds Swaziland

Climate:

South Africa has a moderate climate with sunny days and cool nights. The most southerly point has a mean yearly temperature of 61.8 degrees Fahrenheit, while Johannesburg, situated at 5,700 above sea level, has an annual mean of 60.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Pretoria, at 4,452 feet above sea level, is warmer with a mean annual temperature of 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperatures can be deceiving because of the very bright and dangerous high sun during most of the year, especially in the highveld areas.

Although the country lies close to the Tropic of Capricorn, the high altitude of the inland areas results in a temperate climate in most of the country. In the Southern Hemisphere, seasons are opposite those of the Northern Hemispher-summer extends from October to March; winter from June to September. The rainy season in the Pretoria-Johannesburg area is during summer, and the temperature seldom rises above 90 degrees F, with cool nights. Winter is dry and cool with daily temperatures varying from as low as 30 degrees F during the night to as high as 75 degrees F during the day.

Along the coastal area where Durban and Cape Town are located, heavier rainfall occurs during winter and spring, causing high humidity. Both cities experience strong winds - Durban from August through October and Cape Town throughout the year. The seasons are not pronounced but blend almost imperceptibly.

For the most part, trees and shrubs remain green, with flowers blooming throughout the year. The highveld, which includes the Pretoria-Johannesburg area, remains dry and brown throughout much of the year.

South Africa Use of Natural Resources

South Africa Environment

Climate:

South Africa has a moderate climate with sunny days and cool nights. The most southerly point has a mean yearly temperature of 61.8 degrees Fahrenheit, while Johannesburg, situated at 5,700 above sea level, has an annual mean of 60.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Pretoria, at 4,452 feet above sea level, is warmer with a mean annual temperature of 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperatures can be deceiving because of the very bright and dangerous high sun during most of the year, especially in the highveld areas.

Although the country lies close to the Tropic of Capricorn, the high altitude of the inland areas results in a temperate climate in most of the country. In the Southern Hemisphere, seasons are opposite those of the Northern Hemispher-summer extends from October to March; winter from June to September. The rainy season in the Pretoria-Johannesburg area is during summer, and the temperature seldom rises above 90 degrees F, with cool nights. Winter is dry and cool with daily temperatures varying from as low as 30 degrees F during the night to as high as 75 degrees F during the day.

Along the coastal area where Durban and Cape Town are located, heavier rainfall occurs during winter and spring, causing high humidity. Both cities experience strong winds - Durban from August through October and Cape Town throughout the year. The seasons are not pronounced but blend almost imperceptibly.

For the most part, trees and shrubs remain green, with flowers blooming throughout the year. The highveld, which includes the Pretoria-Johannesburg area, remains dry and brown throughout much of the year.

Terrain:

vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain

Natural Resources:

gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas

Natural Hazards:

prolonged droughts

Irrigated Land:

6,448 Square Miles
16,700 Square Kilometers

Environmental Issues:

lack of important arterial rivers or lakes requires extensive water conservation and control measures; growth in water usage outpacing supply; pollution of rivers from agricultural runoff and urban discharge; air pollution resulting in acid rain; soil erosion; desertification

Environment - International Agreements:

party to: 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, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

South Africa Geography

Geographic Location Africa
Total Area 470,691 Square Miles
1,219,090 Square Kilometers
Land Area 468,907 Square Miles
1,214,470 Square Kilometers
Water Area 1,784 Square Miles
4,620 Square Kilometers
Land Boundaries 3,021 Miles
4,862 Kilometers
Irrigated Land 6,448 Square Miles
16,700 Square Kilometers
Border Countries Botswana 1,840 km, Lesotho 909 km, Mozambique 491 km, Namibia 967 km, Swaziland 430 km, Zimbabwe 225 km
Coastline 1,739 Miles
2,798 Kilometers
Geographic Coordinates 29 00 S, 24 00 E
Terrain vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain
Highest Point 3,408 Meters
Highest Point Location Njesuthi 3,408 m
Lowest Point Location Atlantic Ocean 0 m
Natural Resources gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas
Time Zone UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
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