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Algeria Geography


Situated in northwestern Africa along the Mediterranean Sea, Algeria is the second largest country on the continent. Comparatively, it is slightly less than 3.5 times the size of Texas, with a total area of 2,381,740 sq km (919,595 sq mi).

Extending about 2,400 km (1,500 mi) east to west, and 2,100 km (1,300 mi) north to south, Algeria is bounded on the north by the Mediterranean Sea, on the east by Tunisia and Libya, on the southeast by Niger, on the southwest by Mali, on the west by Mauritania, and on the west and northwest by the Western Sahara and Morocco; the total boundary length is 6,343 km (3,933 mi).

Land boundary and claims disputes with Libya were unresolved as of late 2002.

Algeria's capital city, Algiers, is located on the northern boundary of the country on the Mediterranean Sea.

The parallel mountain ranges of the Tell or Maritime Atlas, comprising coastal massifs and northern inland ranges, and the Saharan Atlas divide Algeria into three basic longitudinal zones running generally east-west: the Mediterranean zone or Tell; the High Plateaus, including the regions of Great and Small Kabilia; and the Sahara Desert, accounting for at least 80% of Algeria's total land area. About half of Algeria is 900 m (3,000 ft) or more above sea level, and about 70% of the area is from 760 to 1,680 m (2,500 to 5,500 ft) in elevation. The highest point is Mount Tahat (3,003 m/9,852 ft), in the Ahaggar Range of the Sahara.

Only the main rivers of the Tell have water all year round, and even then the summer flow is small. None of the rivers are navigable. The mountainous areas of the High Plateaus are poorly watered; most of the rivers and streams (oueds) flow irregularly, since they depend for water upon an erratic rainfall. In the High Plateaus are many salt marshes and dry or shallow salt lakes (sebkhas or shotts). Farther south, the land becomes increasingly arid, merging into the completely dry desert.

Algeria lies on the African Tectonic Plate. Northwestern Algeria is a seismologically active area. Earthquakes on 10 October 1980 in a rural area southwest of Algiers left over 2,500 persons dead and almost 100,000 homeless.

Northern Algeria lies within the temperate zone, and its climate is similar to that of other Mediterranean countries, although the diversity of the relief provides sharp contrasts in temperature. The coastal region has a pleasant climate, with winter temperatures averaging from 10° to 12°C (50° to 54°F) and average summer temperatures ranging from 24° to 26°C (75° to 79°F). Rainfall in this region is abundant – 38 to 69 cm (15 to 27 in) per year, and up to 100 cm (40 in) in the eastern part – except in the area around Oran (Ouahran), where mountains form a barrier against rain-carrying winds. When heavy rains fall (often more than 3.8 cm/1.5 in within 24 hours), they flood large areas and then evaporate so quickly that they are of little help in cultivation.

Farther inland, the climate changes; winters average 4° to 6°C (39° to 43°F), with considerable frost and occasional snow on the massifs; summers average 26° to 28°C (79° to 82°F). In this region, prevailing winds are westerly and northerly in winter and easterly and northeasterly in summer, resulting in a general increase in precipitation from September to December and a decrease from January to August; there is little or no rainfall in the summer months.

In the Sahara Desert, temperatures range from -10° to 34°C (14° to 93°F), with extreme highs of 49°C (120°F). There are daily variations of more than 44°C (80°F). Winds are frequent and violent. Rainfall is irregular and unevenly distributed.


Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Morocco and Tunisia

Geographic coordinates
28 00 N, 3 00 E

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