Physical Geography

Land

There are four major regions—the Andes, the Pampas, the North, and Patagonia.

The Andes region is a mountainous area covering some 300,000 square miles (780,000 km2) along the Chilean border. The rugged snowcapped ranges contain the Western Hemisphere's loftiest peaks, some of which are volcanic. Aconcagua (22,834 feet [6,960 m] above sea level) is the highest peak, followed by Ojos del Salado (22,572 feet [6,880 m]) and Bonete (22,546 feet [6,872 m]). In the north is the Puna, a desertlike plateau, 10,000 to 13,000 feet (3,000 to 4,000 m) high, extending southward from Bolivia.

Facts in brief about Argentina
Capital: Buenos Aires.
Official language: Spanish.
Official name: Republica Argentina (Argentine Republic).
Area: 1,073,519 mi2 (2,780,400 km2). Greatest distances—north-south, 2,300 mi (3,700 km); east-west, 980 mi (1,577 km). Coastline—2,940 mi (4,731 km).
Elevation: Highest—Aconcagua, 22,835 ft (6,960 m) above sea level. Lowest—Valdes Peninsula, 131 ft (40 m) below sea level.
Population: Current estimate—39,746,000; density, 37 per mi2 (14 per km2); distribution, 90 percent urban, 10 percent rural. 2001 census—36,260,130.
Chief products: Agriculture—beef, corn, grapes, milk, potatoes, sorghum, soybeans, sugar cane, sunflower seeds, wheat, wool. Manufacturing—chemicals, electrical equipment, meat and other food products, motor vehicles, printed materials, textiles. Mining—petroleum, natural gas.
Argentina's state flag, adopted in 1818, and the coat of arms bear a sun, which represents Argentina's freedom from Spain. The blue and white of the flag are the colors worn by patriots who fought off British invaders in 1806 and 1807. The coat of arms also bears a liberty cap.
Money: Basic unit—Argentine peso. One hundred centavos equal one peso.

South of the Puna is an arid area of basins and mountain ranges, chief of which is the Sierras de Cordoba. The southern Andes are relatively low and consist of forested, lake-dotted ranges. Their highest peaks are glacier-capped.

The Pampas are Argentina's fertile central plain. Their 250,000 square miles (650,000 km2) of grassy, treeless prairies fan out from Buenos Aires westward to the Andes. Though its general appearance is flat, the land rises gradually from sea level along the Atlantic coast to more than 2,000 feet (600 m) near the Andes.

The North, with an area of about 220,000 square miles (570,000 km2), consists mainly of the Argentine section of the Gran Chaco. It is predominantly a level lowland of tropical scrub and savanna grassland lying between the Parana and Paraguay rivers and the Andes. During the rainy season much of the region is marsh. East of the Chaco, between the Parana and Uruguay rivers, is the Argentine Mesopotamia—a flat to gently rolling wooded plain.

Patagonia occupies some 300,000 square miles (780,000 km2) south of the Colorado River. It is mainly a treeless, windswept plateau crossed by deep, broad, east-west valleys. At Patagonia's southern tip, across the stormy Strait of Magellan, is Tierra del Fuego, a bleak, mountainous archipelago that Argentina shares with Chile.

Water

The chief river system is that funneling into the Rio de la Plata, an estuary of the Atlantic, on which Buenos Aires is situated. Major tributaries are the Parana, Uruguay, and Paraguay rivers. Also forming part of the Plata system are such streams of the Chaco as the Pilcomayo, Bermejo, and Salado. There are no notable rivers in the Pampas. Through Patagonia flow the Colorado, Negro, Chubut, and Deseado. Some of Argentina's rivers, especially those along the arid eastern flank of the Andes, never reach the sea; they dry up or empty into interior basins.

Argentina shares with Brazil one of the world's great waterfalls—Iguassu, or Iguazu, Falls, near the Paraguay border. Freshwater lakes lie mainly along the western edge of Patagonia in the southern Andes. Here, amid alpine scenery, are such large lakes as Buenos Aires, Viedma, Argentina, and Nahuel Huapi. Shallow, salty Mar Chiquita is the only large lake in the north. There are, however, numerous dry salt lakes (salt flats), the largest being Salinas Grandes.

Climate

The climate varies from subtropical to cold, mainly because of Argentina's long north-south extent. Both the Andes and the Atlantic strongly influence the climate.

The highest temperatures occur in the north, especially in the Chaco. During long, hot summers here, readings of more than 100 F. (38 C.) are frequent. Winters are generally mild. In the Pampas there are greater climatic variation and more pronounced seasons. Temperatures in Buenos Aires average 74 F. (23 C.) in January (the warmest month) and 49 F. (9 C.) in July (the coldest). Though Patagonia extends to within 800 miles (1,300 km) of Antarctica, it does not have a cold climate. The ocean is the predominant influence, keeping temperatures between 35 and 70 F. (2 to 21 C.).

Precipitation is plentiful only in the eastern Pampas and in the Argentine Mesopotamia. About 37 inches (940 mm) of rain falls in Buenos Aires each year, and more than that in Mesopotamia. Toward the Andes and in Patagonia, amounts decline to less than 20 inches (508 mm) a year. Some areas receive less than 5 inches (127 mm) and resemble deserts.