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Australia: Geographical And Natural Environment

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Introduction

Australia is the smallest continent and one of the largest countries on Earth lying between the Pacific and Indian oceans in the Southern Hemisphere. Its population is comparatively low and made up of aboriginal people and immigrants from all over the world.

Pic: Geographical Map of Australia

LOCATION

 Australia is bounded by the Indian Ocean in the West, the Pacific Ocean in the East, the Arafura Sea in the North and the Southern Ocean in the South. It lies to the South-East of Asia with a latitudinal extension of 10°S to 40°S and longitudinal extension of 114°E to 154°E. Australia has an area of 7,686,850 sq km.

PHYSICAL FEATURES

 Australia can be broadly divided into following physical regions:

1. The Eastern Highland: The Eastern Highland runs roughly parallel to the East coast from Cape York in the North to Tasmania in the South The mountains are broad and low in the North but narrow and high in the South. The average height of these highlands is 900 meters above sea level. These highlands are called Gregory Range in Queensland, the Blue Mountains and New England Range in New South Wales and the Australian Alps in Victoria. The highest peak of Eastern Highlands is Mt. Kosciuszko (2,228 m) which lies in Australian Alps. The Eastern Highlands are also called the ‘Great Dividing Range

Pic: Great Dividing Range

2. The Central Lowlands: The Central Lowlands extends from Gulf of Carpentaria in the North to Encounter Bay in the South. These lowlands are rainless flat low-lying area with lakes and rivers. The most important river of this region is River Murray with its tributaries. The Central Lowlands can be divided into three distinct divisions. the Carpentaria Lowlands, the Lake Eyre Basin and the Murray-Darling Basin.

Pic: Mt. Kosciuszoko

3. The Western Plateau: The Western Plateau is a vast plateau towards the Western part covering nearly two-third of the continent. It is made up of old rocks which is rich in minerals. Much of the plateau is desert or semi-desert. Three of the four major deserts that make up the Great Australian Desert lie in this region, namely the Gibson Desert, the Great Sandy Desert and the Great Victoria Desert. The Ayers Rock, which is a mass of single rock and a popular tourist attraction of Australia, is located in this region.

CLIMATE

  Several factors are responsible for the type of climate in Australia. Its location in the Southern hemisphere makes the climate exactly opposite to that of Northern hemisphere. Therefore, when it is summer in Nepal it is winter in Australia. The Tropic of Capricorn divides the country roughly into two halves, so the Northern part lies in the tropical zone which is warm and hot all year round. The Southern part lies in the temperate zone with warm summers and mild, cool winters.

Pic: Ayers Rock

The Northern most part of Northern Territory and Cape York region of Queensland experience tropical monsoon climate. It is mostly hot with alternate wet and dry season. Heavy rainfall occurs in summer. The entire Western Plateau experiences Hot Desert type of climate. It is hot and dry in summers and cold in winter. Annual rainfall is less than 25 cm. The South East and South-West parts of Australia experiences Mediterranean Type of climate. It has moderately warm summers, mild winters with moderate rainfall in winter. The Murray Darling Basin area experiences Temperate Grassland type of climate. Summers are warm and winters are cool with little rainfall in summers.

NATURAL VEGETATION

The different type of climate has resulted in varieties of natural vegetation in Australia. The tropical forests are found in the North and Eastern coastal region where there is more rainfall and high temperature. The vegetation of this region includes deciduous trees, palms and other evergreen species. The temperate forests are found in the South-Eastern and South Western parts of Australia and in Tasmania. Eucalyptus trees grow well in this region. The tropical grasslands or the savanna are found bordering the tropical forests.

Eucalyptus Forest

Tall grasses are common vegetation with scattered trees towards the outer margin. The temperate grasslands also known as downs are found in and around the Murray-Darling Basin. Short grasses predominates the area with a few scattered trees. The Western Plateau region has nominal desert vegetation, such as, shrubs and bushes, cactus, spinifex and acacia.

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