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AUSTRALIA GEOGRAPHY

Australia is both an island and a continent, bounded by the Indian, Pacific, South Pacific, and Southern Oceans. It spans three time zones and has 25,893 km of coastline and around 12 million km2 of ocean. Measuring 7,617,930 km2 in area, Australia is the sixth largest country in the world. Because it covers such a vast distance, Australia contains a great diversity of climates and landscapes, ranging from desert plateaus in the west and centre to tropical rainforests in the north and north-east to fertile plains and alpine heaths in the south-east.

Australian Desert

Approximately 70% of the Australia is semi-arid or desert, and a significant portion of the centre is unsuitable for human settlement. Australia has the oldest and least fertile soils in the world, and is the flattest and driest inhabited continent on earth. Only the south-east and south-west corners of the country have a temperate climate. However, Australia has a rich supply of underground water, which helps to support plant and animal life, industry and agriculture even in some of the harshest landscapes and weather conditions. The largest and most important source of this water is the Great Artesian Basin, which extends 1.7 million km2 (or 22% of the continent) beneath the arid regions of Queensland, the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales.

Australian Coastline

Australia’s fertile areas lie near the coast, where the majority of the population lives. In fact, Australia is one of the most urbanised countries in the world, with more than 80% of the population living within 100 km of the coast. Australia’s coastline features wide sandy beaches, lush vegetation, and approximately 12,000 offshore islands. It covers climates ranging from cooler conditions in Tasmania and on the southern coasts, through warm and temperate on the central east and west coasts, to hot and humid conditions in the tropical north.

For all your Gold Coast accommodation needs see , the online hotel specialist. The coastline is by far the most popular destination.

Australian Tropics

The landscapes of Australia’s tropical northern region consist of rainforest, woodland, grassland, mangrove swamps, and desert. The warm, wet climate is significantly influenced by ocean currents, such as the Indian Ocean Dipole and the El Niño Southern Oscillation, which is associated with periodic drought, and the seasonal low pressure system that creates tropical cyclones. The Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest coral reef, is located a short distance off the north-east coast and contains about 400 species of coral, 1,500 species of fish, and many other types of fauna.

Australian Mountains

South of the tropics, along the east coast, runs the Great Dividing Range or Eastern Highlands, Australia’s most substantial mountain range and the fourth longest mountain range in the world. The range stretches more than 3,500 km from Dauan Island off the north-east tip of Queensland, down the entire length of the east coast through New South Wales (where it peaks at Mount Kosciusko at a height of 2,228 metres), and into the Grampians in western Victoria. The Eastern Highlands feature the most densely settled areas in Australia, and have the greatest relief, the most rainfall, and the most diverse and abundant plant and wildlife, with many eucalyptus forests.

Australian Climate

Australia’s national average yearly rainfall of 465 millimetres varies greatly each year and throughout the country. The driest region is the Lake Eyre drainage basin, which receives less than 125 millimetres annually. The wettest areas are in the tropical north-east and in the south-west of Tasmania, where in some places more than 3,500 millimetres of rain have been recorded. All regions in Australia experience warm summers and relatively mild winters, and snow rarely falls outside a small number of places and a limited period of the year. The highest temperature was recorded in 1889 at Cloncurry, Queensland, at 53 degrees Celsius, while the coldest temperature was -23 degrees Celsius, recorded in 1994 at Charlotte Pass in New South Wales.

Bibliography

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The island continent, Australian Government, retrieved 19 November 2009, http://www.dfat.gov.au/aib/island_continent.html.

Department of the Environment and Water Resources, State of the Environment 2006, Australian Government, 2006, retrieved 23 November 2009, http://www.environment.gov.au/soe/2006/index.html.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), Marine species conservation, Australian Government, 2008, retrieved 20 November 2009, http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/species/index.html.

Geoscience Australia, Fabulous Facts About Australia, Australian Government, 2009, retrieved 20 November 2009, http://www.ga.gov.au/education/geoscience-basics/index.jsp.

Nova: Science in the News, The water down under, Australian Academy of Science, 2007, retrieved 25 November 2009, http://www.science.org.au/nova/100/100key.htm.

Shaw, JH, Collins Australian Encyclopedia, William Collins Pty Ltd., Sydney, 1984,

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