The geography of Australia encompasses awide variety of biogeographic regions being the world's smallest continent butthe sixth-largest country in the world.
The population of Australia isconcentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts.
The geography ofthe country is extremely diverse, ranging from the snow-capped mountainsof the Australian Alps and Tasmania to large deserts, tropical and temperateforests.
Neighbouring countries includeIndonesia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea to the north, the SolomonIslands, Vanuatu and the French dependency of New Caledonia to the east,and New Zealand to the southeast.
Physical geography Australia is a country, and a continent.
It is located in Oceania between theIndian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean.
It is the sixth largest countryin the world with a total area of 7,686,850 square kilometers, making itslightly smaller than the 48 states of the contiguous United States and 31.
5times larger than the United Kingdom.
The Australian mainland has a totalcoastline length of 35,876 km with an additional 23,859 km of islandcoastlines.
There are 758 estuaries around the country with most located inthe tropical and sub-tropical zones.
Australia claims an extensive ExclusiveEconomic Zone of 8,148,250 square kilometres.
This exclusive economic zonedoes not include the Australian Antarctic Territory.
Australia has thelargest area of ocean jurisdiction of any country on earth.
It has no landborders.
The northernmost points of the country are the Cape York Peninsula ofQueensland and the Top End of the Northern Territory.
The western half ofAustralia consists of the Western Plateau, which rises to mountain heightsnear the west coast and falls to lower elevations near the continental centre.
The Western Plateau region is generally flat, though broken by various mountainranges such as the Hamersley Range, the MacDonnell Ranges, and the MusgraveRange.
Surface water is generally lacking in the Western Plateau, althoughthere are several larger rivers in the west and north, such as the Murchison,Ashburton, and Victoria river.
The Eastern Highlands, or Great DividingRange, lie near the eastern coast of Australia, separating the relativelynarrow eastern coastal plain from the rest of the continent.
These EasternAustralian temperate forests have the greatest relief, the most rainfall, themost abundant and varied flora and fauna, and the densest human settlement.
Between the Eastern Highlands and the Western Plateau, lie the CentralLowlands, which are made up of the Great Artesian Basin and Australia's largestriver systems, Murray-Darling Basin and Lake Eyre Basin.
Off the eastern coast of Australia is the world's largest coral reef complex,the Great Barrier Reef.
The State of Tasmania, a large and mountainousisland, resides in the south-eastern corner of Australia.
= Geology = Australia is the lowest, flattest, andoldest continental landmass on Earth and it has had a relatively stablegeological history.
Geological forces such as tectonic uplift of mountainranges or clashes between tectonic plates occurred mainly in Australia'searly history, when it was still a part of Gondwana.
Its highest peak is MountKosciuszko at 2,228 metres, which is relatively low in comparison to thehighest mountains on other continents.
Erosion has heavily weatheredAustralia's surface.
Australia is situated in the middle ofthe tectonic plate, and therefore currently has no active volcanism.
Minorearthquakes which produce no damage occur regularly, while major earthquakesmeasuring greater than magnitude 6 occur on average every five years.
The terrainis mostly low plateau with deserts, rangelands and a fertile plain in thesoutheast.
Tasmania and the Australian Alps do not contain any permanenticefields or glaciers, although they may have existed in the past.
The GreatBarrier Reef, by far the world's largest coral reef, lies a short distance offthe north-east coast.
= Regions =The Australian continental landmass consists of 6 distinct landformdivisions.
These are: The Eastern Highlands—including theGreat Dividing Range, the fertile Brigalow Belt strip of grassland behindthe east coast, and the Eastern Uplands The Eastern alluvial Plains andLowlands—Murray Darling basin covers southern part, also includes parts ofthe Lake Eyre Basin and extends to the Gulf of CarpentariaThe South Australian Highlands—including the Flinders Range, Eyre Peninsula andYorke Peninsula The Western Plateau—including theNullarbor Plain The Central DesertsNorthern Plateau and Basins—including the Top End= Hydrology = Because much of Australia's interior isarid, the low average annual rainfall means interior rivers are often dry andlakes empty.
The headwaters of some waterways are located in tropicalregions where summer rains create a high rate of discharge.
Flood eventsdrastically alter the dry environment in which the ecology of central Australiahas had to adapt to the boom and bust cycle.
The Great Artesian Basin is an important source of water, the world's largest anddeepest fresh water basin.
Access to water from the basin has led to theexpansion of grazing into areas that were previously far too dry forlivestock.
Towns and cities across the country sometimes face major waterstorage and usage crisis in which restrictions and other measures areimplemented to reduce water consumption.
Water restrictions are based on agradient of activities that become progressively banned as the situationworsens.
Billabong is the Australian name givento the oxbow lakes that can form along a meandering river's course.
In aworld-wide comparison of height, Australia's waterfalls are relativelyinsignificant, with the longest drop ranked 135th according to the WorldWaterfall Database.
Political geography Australia consists of six states, two major mainland territories, and otherminor territories.
The states are New South Wales, Queensland, SouthAustralia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.
The two majormainland territories are the Northern Territory and the Australian CapitalTerritory.
Western Australia is the largest state covering just under onethird of the Australian landmass, followed by Queensland and New SouthWales.
Australia also has several minorterritories; the federal government administers a separate area within NewSouth Wales, the Jervis Bay Territory, as a naval base and sea port for thenational capital.
In addition Australia has the following, inhabited, externalterritories: Norfolk Island, Christmas Island, Cocos Islands, and severallargely uninhabited external territories: Ashmore and CartierIslands, Coral Sea Islands, Heard Island and McDonald Islands and the AustralianAntarctic Territory.
Climate By far the largest part of Australia is arid or semi-arid.
A total of 18% ofAustralia's mainland consists of named deserts, while additional areas areconsidered to have a desert climate based on low rainfall and hightemperature.
Only the south-east and south-west corners have a temperateclimate and moderately fertile soil.
The northern part of the country has atropical climate: part is tropical rainforests, part grasslands, and partdesert.
Rainfall is highly variable, withfrequent droughts lasting several seasons thought to be caused in part bythe El Niño-Southern Oscillation.
Occasionally a dust storm will blanket aregion or even several states and there are reports of the occasional largetornado.
Rising levels of salinity and desertification in some areas isravaging the landscape.
Australia's tropical/subtropicallocation and cold waters off the western coast make most of western Australia ahot desert with aridity, a marked feature of the greater part of thecontinent.
These cold waters produce little moisture needed on the mainland.
A 2005 study by Australian and American researchers investigated thedesertification of the interior, and suggested that one explanation wasrelated to human settlers who arrived about 50,000 years ago.
Regular burningby these settlers could have prevented monsoons from reaching interiorAustralia.
The outback covers 70 percent of the continent.
Natural hazards Cyclones along the northern coasts,severe thunderstorms, droughts, occasional floods, heat waves, andfrequent bushfires are natural hazards that are present in Australia.
Environment Current environmental issues include:soil erosion from overgrazing, industrial development, urbanization,and poor farming practices; soil salinity rising due to the use of poorquality water; desertification; introduced pest species; clearing foragricultural purposes threatens the natural habitat of many unique animaland plant species; the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast, thelargest coral reef in the world, is threatened by increased shipping and itspopularity as a tourist site; limited natural fresh water resources; threatsfrom invasive species.
International agreements:party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, KyotoProtocol, Biodiversity, China–Australia Migratory Bird Agreement, ClimateChange, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, HazardousWastes, Japan–Australia Migratory Bird Agreement, Law of the Sea, MarineDumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban 1963, NuclearNon-Proliferation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, TropicalTimber 1994, Ramsar Convention, Whaling signed, but not ratified:Desertification Antipodes Australia is antipodal to the North Atlantic.
There are no land areasincluded, though Bermuda has its antipodes just off Perth, Flores Islandin the western Azores just off Flinders Island, Tasmania, and Cape Verde isopposite the Coral Sea.
See also References This article incorporates public domainmaterial from the CIA World Factbook document "2000 edition".
Further reading Miller, Gifford et al.
Sensitivity ofthe Australian Monsoon to insolation and vegetation: Implications for humanimpact on continental moisture balance.
National Mapping – Fab Facts, Landforms, AustralianMountains.
Archived from the original on 17 June 2005.
Retrieved 7 July 2005.
External links (English) Map of Australia from 1826Wikimedia Atlas of Australia.