Brazil is not only a large country in South America, it is the fifth largest country in the world with an area of 8,514,877 sq km and population of 198,739,269. Located in the North Easterly side of South America, the country occupies roughly half of the continent. Brazil is unique is sharing a common boundary with every South American country except Chile and Ecuador and is also largely bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic coastline is an impressive 7,367 kilometres with islands belonging to Brazil just off the coast.
The topography of the country ranges from the basin around the enormous Amazon River to the highest point, Pico da Neblina, at 2,994 m (9,823 ft). The Amazon's entire 2,000 miles lies within Brazil and sculpts much of its character. The river carries more water to the ocean than any other river system in the world. The basin that enshrines the Amazon hosts the most rapidly depleting rain forest in the world, losing about 52,000 square miles annually.
Brazil's climate is humid with either a tropical or subtropical climate. The rainy season occurs during the summer months and can cause devastating land slides. In Eastern Brazil, there are regular droughts. Winter brings mild temperatures and less rain than the summer.
Average annual minimum temperature is 20 °C (68 °F) with the average annual maximum temperature is 30 °C (86 °F), and the average annual temperature is 25 °C (77 °F). Yearly precipitation is 109 cm.
The country spans three time zones. The westernmost time zone is one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time. The time zone of the capital (Brasília) and of the most populated part of Brazil (including Rio) is UTC-3 (two hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time). Daylight saving time occurs from October to February.
Sao Paulo is the capital city of the state with the same name, which lies in southern Brazil. The state of Sao Paulo is divided into three geographical zones: a narrow coastal region; the Serra do Mar mountain chain; and an interior plateau. Indeed this interior plateau, which covers most of the state of Sao Paulo, is one of the largest regions of fertile land in the country and as such has allowed its coffee plantations to thrive more than anywhere else in Brazil. Before the Portuguese began to colonise and exploit the region, natural forest covered about 82% of the State and the whole interior plateau. Today very little of the original forest remains, initially being cleared for use as timber, then later cleared to make way for plantations and cattle raising, and finally for creating space for urban growth.
Apart from some variations caused by altitude, the climate of the state of Sao Paulo is tropical - in actual fact the Tropic of Capricorn passes directly right over the city of Sao Paulo.
Most of the rivers in the State of São Paulo feed into the Paraná River, which separates it from the neighbouring state of Mato Grosso. The fact that Sao Paulo state is a region of plateaus means that the potential for hydroelectricity production is great, and indeed there are many hydroelectricity plants in the State, the largest of which span the Paraná and Grande rivers. The winding rivers are not easily navigable however, so several dams were constructed on the Tiete River, which traverses almost the whole state, in order to make shipping lanes possible. The two rivers that flow into the ocean are the lifeblood of many regions: the Ribeira do Iguape River in the south fertilizes an otherwise very poor area, and the Paraíba do Sul River is both navigable and runs close to the city of Rio de Janeiro before reaching the sea, thus boosting the coffee trade. The Tietê and Paraíba do Sul Rivers pass through many cities however and as a result are highly polluted. Much raw sewage finds its way in the Tietê River, and the Paraíba River is particularly affected by industrial waste.
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