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Geography of Nicaragua


Nicaragua, the largest of the Central American countries, has an area of 129,494 km² (49,998 mi²), which includes the area covered by the waters of Lake Nicaragua (about 8,000 km²/3,089 mi²) and Lake Managua (about 1,025 km²/396 mi²). Comparatively, the area occupied by Nicaragua is slightly smaller than Greece or the state of New York, USA. The country has a length of 472 km (293 mi) north to south, and a width of 478 km (297 mi) east to west. Bounded on the north by Honduras, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, on the south by Costa Rica, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean, Nicaragua has a total boundary length of 2,141 km (1,330 mi), of which 910 km (565 mi) is coastline.

In 1980, Nicaragua unilaterally abrogated its 1928 treaty with Colombia, confirming that nation's sovereignty over the Caribbean archipelago of San Andrés and Providencia, about 190 km (120 mi) off the Nicaraguan coast. Nicaragua also disputes the Treaty of Quita Sueño, ratified by the US Senate in July 1981, according to which Colombia received the uninhabited islands of Quita Sueño Bank, Roncador Cay, and Serrana Bank. Nicaragua's capital city, Managua, is located in the southwestern part of the country.

The Caribbean coast, known as the Mosquito (or Miskito) Coast or Mosquitia, consists of low, flat, wet, tropical forest, extending into pine savannas 80-160 km (50-100 mi) inland. The coastal lowland rises to a plateau covering about one-third of the total area. This plateau is broken by mountain ranges extending east-ward from the main cordillera to within 64-80 km (40-50 mi) of the Caribbean coast. The mountainous central area forms a triangular wedge pointed southeast, rising at its highest to some 2,000 m (6,600 ft).

The plains and lake region, in a long, narrow structural depression running northwest to southeast along the isthmus, contains a belt of volcanoes rising to 1,500 m (5,000 ft) and extending from the Gulf of Fonseca to Lake Nicaragua. In this region is located Lake Managua, at 41 m (136 ft) above sea level, which drains through the Tipitapa Channel into Lake Nicaragua, at 32 m (106 ft) above sea level, which, in turn, drains through the San Juan River eastward into the Caribbean. Lake Nicaragua is about 160 km (100 mi) long and 65 km (40 mi) wide at the widest point, while Lake Managua is 52 km (33 mi) long by 25 km (16 mi) wide.
The principal waterways are the Coco (or Segovia) River, navigable up to 240 km (150 mi) inland from the eastern Mosquito Coast, and the San Juan, navigable to within a few miles of the Caribbean, where a series of rapids halts transportation.

Nicaragua lies in an earthquake zone where hundreds of minor tremors, shocks, and earthquakes occur each year. More severe earthquakes have occurred periodically. Some of these are centred off the coast of Nicaragua, such as the 6.9 magnitude earth-quake on 9 October 2003 and the 6.6 magnitude quake of 2 July 2005.

Except in the central highlands, the climate is warm and humid. Average humidity in Managua in June, the most humid month, is 84%; in April, the driest month, 62%. The mean temperature, varying according to altitude, is between 20° and 30°C (68° and 86°F). In Managua, monthly average temperatures range from a minimum of 23°C (73°F) and a maximum of 30°C (86°F) in January to a minimum of 26°C (79°F) and a maximum of 31°C (88°F) in July. There are two seasons: a wet season, from May to December, and a dry season, from January through April. Rainfall, however, varies according to region, and the rainy season in the eastern area may extend 9 or even 12 months. Average annual rainfall along the Mosquito Coast reaches 254-635 cm (100-250 in) as a result of the easterly trade winds blowing in from the Caribbean; the highlands also have heavy rainfall. Managua receives 114 cm (45 in), while the Pacific coast averages over 102 cm (40 in) a year.


Location : Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Costa Rica and Honduras
Geographic coordinates : 13 00 N, 85 00 W
Map references : Central America and the Caribbean
Area : total: 130,370 sq km

land: 119,990 sq km

water: 10,380 sq km
Area - comparative : slightly smaller than Greece or the state of New York, USA
Land boundaries : total: 1,231 km

border countries: Costa Rica 309 km, Honduras 922 km
Coastline : 910 km
Maritime claims : territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

continental shelf: natural prolongation
Climate : tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands
Terrain : extensive Atlantic coastal plains rising to central interior mountains; narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes
Elevation extremes : lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

highest point: Mogoton 2,438 m
Natural resources : gold, silver, copper, tungsten, lead, zinc, timber, fish
Land use : arable land: 14.57%

permanent crops: 1.76%

other: 83.66% (2011)
Irrigated land : 942.4 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources : 196.6 cu km (2011)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural) : total: 1.39 cu km/yr (23%/4%/73%)

per capita: 265.9 cu m/yr (2008)
Natural hazards : destructive earthquakes; volcanoes; landslides; extremely susceptible to hurricanes

volcanism: significant volcanic activity; Cerro Negro (elev. 728 m), which last erupted in 1999, is one of Nicaragua's most active volcanoes; its lava flows and ash have been known to cause significant damage to farmland and buildings; other historically active volcanoes include Concepcion, Cosiguina, Las Pilas, Masaya, Momotombo, San Cristobal and Telica
Environment - current issues : deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution
Environment - international agreements : party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note : largest country in Central America; contains the largest freshwater body in Central America, Lago de Nicaragua






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