Driving Directions Brazil

BRAZIL is a huge South American country bounded to the north, south, and east by the Atlantic Ocean. It is the fifth-largest country in the world and covers nearly half of South America. There are two dominant topographical features – the great Amazon river basin and the ancient plateau region of crystalline rocks called the Brazilian Highlands. The Amazon river basin occupies a huge land area, over one-third of the country’s area, and much of this covered with tropical rainforests.

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The Amazon system is navigable by large ocean­going vessels for about 3,700 kilometers or 2,300 miles, a factor that has been of immense importance to the development of Brazil. In the central interior, the Brazilian Highlands form a raised tableland called the Mato Grosso. Throughout their extent, they are cut by deep river valleys and ridged by mountain ranges.

However, the mountains are modest by South American standards and do not exceed 2,896 meters or 9,500 feet in height, with an average elevation of about 1,219 meters or 4,000 feet. Beyond the Amazon basin, the far north lies the southern upland extremity of the Guiana Highlands, another region of very ancient rocks. Brazil’s highest mountain, Pico de Neblina (3,014 meters or 9,888 feet), is situated in an offshoot of these on Venezuela’s border.

Other important rivers cut through Brazil, including those of the Rio de la Plata system, the Parana, Uruguay and Paraguay, and the Sao Francisco and Parnaiba. The climate is mainly tropical, but altitude, distance from the sea, and prevailing winds cause many variations. In the tropical areas, winters are dry and summers wet, and droughts may occur in the northeast, where it is hot and arid.

About 14 percent of the population is employed in agriculture, which occupies only about 7 percent of the land area. The main products exported are coffee, soya beans, orange juice, and cocoa. Brazil is rich in minerals and is the only source of high-grade quartz crystal in commercial quantities. It is also a major producer of chrome ore, and it is now developing what is thought to be the richest iron ore deposits in the world. Fishing, mainly of lobsters, shrimp, and sardines, is also an important industry.

Brazil has valuable timber reserves, but there has been worldwide concern over the ruthless and unregulated felling and clearing of vast rainforest sections.

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The Amazon River basin and its many tributaries dominate Brazil’s northern part, occupying two-fifths of the country. The Guiana Highlands, home to the country’s highest point, Neblina Peak (Pico da Neblina) near the Venezuela border, are in the Amazon River basin’s northernmost part. To the south is a large plateau called the Brazilian Highlands. This plateau meets the Atlantic Ocean in a steep wall-like slope called the Great Escarpment. The highland block of the country is part of the South American Tectonic Plate.

Brazil’s eastern seaboard borders the Atlantic Ocean, with a continental shelf that extends some 370 kilometers (200 nautical miles). The waters of the continental shelf are extremely shallow. Reefs and sandbars dot the shoreline.

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The tropical climate is typically hot and humid, with both abundant rainfall and intense sunshine; the main difference between seasons is rainfall. The temperate climate is generally mild, with greater differences in temperature from season to season.

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