Geography of Panama

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A map of Panama Pm-map.png
A map of Panama

Panama is a country located in Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica. Panama is located on the narrow and low Isthmus of Panama.

Panama A Republic in Central America

Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is a country in Central America, bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital and largest city is Panama City, whose metropolitan area is home to nearly half the country's 4 million people.

Central America central geographic region of the Americas

Central America is located on the southern tip of North America, or is sometimes defined as a subcontinent of the Americas, bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The combined population of Central America has been estimated to be 41,739,000 and 42,688,190.

Caribbean Sea A sea of the Atlantic Ocean bounded by North, Central, and South America

The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and south west, to the north by the Greater Antilles starting with Cuba, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and to the south by the north coast of South America.

Contents

This S-shaped isthmus is situated between 7° and 10° north latitude and 77° and 83° west longitude. Panama encompasses approximately 77,082 square kilometers (29,762 sq mi), is 772 kilometers (480 mi) in length, and is between 60 and 177 kilometers (37 and 110 mi) in width.

Latitude The angle between zenith at a point and the plane of the equator

In geography, latitude is a geographic coordinate that specifies the north–south position of a point on the Earth's surface. Latitude is an angle which ranges from 0° at the Equator to 90° at the poles. Lines of constant latitude, or parallels, run east–west as circles parallel to the equator. Latitude is used together with longitude to specify the precise location of features on the surface of the Earth. On its own, the term latitude should be taken to be the geodetic latitude as defined below. Briefly, geodetic latitude at a point is the angle formed by the vector perpendicular to the ellipsoidal surface from that point, and the equatorial plane. Also defined are six auxiliary latitudes which are used in special applications.

Longitude A geographic coordinate that specifies the east-west position of a point on the Earths surface

Longitude, is a geographic coordinate that specifies the east–west position of a point on the Earth's surface, or the surface of a celestial body. It is an angular measurement, usually expressed in degrees and denoted by the Greek letter lambda (λ). Meridians connect points with the same longitude. By convention, one of these, the Prime Meridian, which passes through the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, England, was allocated the position of 0° longitude. The longitude of other places is measured as the angle east or west from the Prime Meridian, ranging from 0° at the Prime Meridian to +180° eastward and −180° westward. Specifically, it is the angle between a plane through the Prime Meridian and a plane through both poles and the location in question.

Elevation

Panama's topography Panama Topography.png
Panama's topography

The dominant feature of Panama's landform is the central spine of mountains and hills that forms the continental divide. The divide does not form part of the great mountain chains of North America, and only near the Colombian border are there highlands related to the Andean system of South America. The spine that forms the divide is the highly eroded arch of an uplift from the sea bottom, in which peaks were formed by volcanic intrusions.

Andes Mountain range in South America

The Andes or Andean Mountains are the longest continental mountain range in the world, forming a continuous highland along the western edge of South America. This range is about 7,000 km (4,300 mi) long, about 200 to 700 km wide, and of an average height of about 4,000 m (13,000 ft). The Andes extend from north to south through seven South American countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.

The mountain range of the divide is called the Cordillera de Talamanca near the Costa Rican border. Farther east it becomes the Serranía de Tabasará, and the portion of it closer to the lower saddle of the isthmus, where the canal is located, is often called the Sierra de Veraguas. As a whole, the range between Costa Rica and the canal is generally referred to by Panamanian geographers as the Cordillera Central.

Cordillera de Talamanca mountain range

The Cordillera de Talamanca is a mountain range that lies on the southeast half of Costa Rica and the far west of Panama. Much of the range and the area around it is included in the La Amistad International Park, which also is shared between the two countries.

The highest point in Panama is the Volcán Barú (formerly known as the Volcán de Chiriquí), which rises to 3,475 meters (11,401 ft). The apex of a highland that includes Panama's richest soil, the Volcán Barú is still referred to as a volcano, although it has been inactive for millennia. It offers a view of both the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. [1]

Volcán Barú stratovolcano in Panama

The Volcán Barú is an active stratovolcano and the tallest mountain in Panama, at 3,475 metres (11,401 ft) high. It lies about 35 km off the border of Costa Rica. It is also the twelfth highest peak in Central America.

Pacific Ocean Ocean between Asia and Australia in the west, the Americas in the east and Antarctica or the Southern Ocean in the south.

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south and is bounded by Asia and Australia in the west and the Americas in the east.

Atlantic Ocean Ocean between Europe, Africa and the Americas

The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest of the world's oceans, with an area of about 106,460,000 square kilometers. It covers approximately 20 percent of the Earth's surface and about 29 percent of its water surface area. It separates the "Old World" from the "New World".

Climate

Panama map of Koppen climate classification zones Koppen-Geiger Map PAN present.svg
Panama map of Köppen climate classification zones

Panama has a tropical climate. Temperatures are uniformly high—as is the relative humidity—and there is little seasonal variation. Diurnal ranges are low; on a typical dry-season day in the capital city, the early morning minimum may be 24 °C (75.2 °F) and the afternoon maximum 29 °C (84.2 °F). The temperature seldom exceeds 32 °C (89.6 °F) for more than a short time.

Temperatures on the Pacific side of the isthmus are somewhat lower than on the Caribbean, and breezes tend to rise after dusk in most parts of the country. Temperatures are markedly cooler in the higher parts of the mountain ranges, and frosts occur in the Cordillera de Talamanca in western Panama.

Climatic regions are determined less on the basis of temperature than on rainfall, which varies regionally from less than 1,300 millimeters (51.2 in) to more than 3,000 millimeters (118.1 in) per year. Almost all of the rain falls during the rainy season, which is usually from May through November, but varies in length from seven to nine months, with certain exception due to monsoons. The cycle of rainfall is determined primarily by two factors: moisture from the Caribbean, which is transported by north and northeast winds prevailing during most of the year, and the continental divide, which acts as a rain shield for the Pacific lowlands.

Monsoon seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea

Monsoon is traditionally defined as a seasonal reversing wind accompanied by corresponding changes in precipitation, but is now used to describe seasonal changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation associated with the asymmetric heating of land and sea. Usually, the term monsoon is used to refer to the rainy phase of a seasonally changing pattern, although technically there is also a dry phase. The term is sometimes incorrectly used for locally heavy but short-term rains, although these rains meet the dictionary definition of monsoon.

A third influence that is present during the late autumn is the southwest wind off the Pacific. This wind brings some precipitation to the Pacific lowlands, modified by the highlands of the Península de Azuero, which form a partial rainshield for much of central Panama. Rainfall is generally much heavier on the Caribbean than on the Pacific side. The annual average in Panama City is little more than half of that in Colón. Although rainy-season thunderstorms are common, the country is outside the hurricane belt.

Vegetation

Panama's vegetation, 1981 Panama veg 1981.jpg
Panama's vegetation, 1981

Panama's tropical environment supports an abundance of plants. Forests dominate, interrupted in places by grasslands, scrub, and crops. Nearly 40 percent of Panama is wooded. Deforestation is a continuing threat to the rain-drenched woodlands. Tree cover has been reduced by more than 50 percent since the 1940s.

Subsistence farming, widely practiced from the northeastern jungles to the southwestern grasslands, consists largely of corn, bean, and tuber plots. Mangrove swamps occur along parts of both coasts, with banana plantations occupying deltas near Costa Rica. In many places, a multi-canopied rain forest abuts the swamp on one side of Panama and increases to the lower reaches of slopes in the other.

Harbors

The Caribbean coastline is marked by several good natural harbors. The numerous islands of the Archipiélago de Bocas del Toro, near the Beaches of Costa Rica, provide an extensive natural roadstead and shield the banana port of Almirante. The over 350 San Blas Islands, near Colombia, are strung out for more than 160 km (99 mi) along the sheltered Caribbean coastline.

The major port on the Pacific coastline is Balboa. The principal islands are those of the Archipiélago de las Perlas in the middle of the Gulf of Panama, the penal colony on the Isla de Coiba in the Golfo de Chiriquí, and the decorative island of Taboga, a tourist attraction that can be seen from Panama City. In all, there are some 1,000 islands off the Pacific coast.

The Pacific coastal waters are extraordinarily shallow. Depths of 180 metres (591 ft) are reached only outside the perimeters of both the Gulf of Panama and the Golfo de Chiriquí, and wide mud flats extend up to 70 km (43 mi) seaward from the coastlines. As a consequence, the tidal range is extreme. A variation of about 70 centimetres (2.3 ft) between high and low water on the Caribbean coast contrasts sharply with over 700 cm (23 ft) on the Pacific coast, and some 130 km (81 mi) up the Río Tuira, the tidal range is still over 500 cm (16 ft).

Waterways

Nearly 500 rivers lace Panama's rugged landscape. Mostly unnavigable, many originate as swift highland streams, meander in valleys, and form coastal deltas. The Río Chepo and the Río Chagres are sources of hydroelectric power. The Kampia lake and Madden Lake (also filled with water from the Río Chagres) provide hydroelectricity for the area of the former Canal Zone.

More than 300 rivers empty into the Pacific. These Pacific-oriented rivers are longer and slower running than those of the Caribbean side. Their basins are also more extensive. One of the longest is the Río Tuira which flows into the Golfo de San Miguel and is the nation's only river navigable by larger vessels.

Administrative divisions

A map of Panama showing its ten provinces and five provincial-level comarcas indigenas (indigenous regions). Countries-Panama-provinces-2005-10-18-en.png
A map of Panama showing its ten provinces and five provincial-level comarcas indígenas (indigenous regions).

Panama is divided into 10 provinces, plus several indigenous comarcas . The provinces are divided into districts, which in turn are subdivided into sections called corregimientos. Configurations of the corregimientos are changed periodically to accommodate population changes as revealed in the census reports.

General facts

Economic activity in Panama, 1981 Panama econ 1981.jpg
Economic activity in Panama, 1981

Geographic coordinates: 9°00′N80°00′W / 9.000°N 80.000°W / 9.000; -80.000

Map references: Central America and the Caribbean

Area:
total: 75,420 km2
land: 74,340 km2
water: 1,080 km2

Land boundaries:
total: 555 km
border countries: Colombia 225 km, Costa Rica 330 km

Coastline: 2,490 km

Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nautical miles (22 km)
contiguous zone: 24 nautical miles (44 km)
exclusive economic zone: 200 nautical miles (370 km) or edge of continental margin

Climate: tropical maritime; hot, humid, cloudy; prolonged rainy season (May to January), short dry season (January to May)

Terrain: interior mostly steep, rugged mountains and dissected, upland plains; coastal areas largely plains and rolling hills

Extreme points:

Northernmost point: Point Manzanillo

Southernmost point: Punta Mariato, Cerro Hoya National Park, Veraguas

Westernmost point: Border with Costa Rica, Chiriquí Province

Easternmost point: Border with Colombia, Darién Province
Lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
Highest point: Volcan de Chiriqui 3,475 m

Natural resources: copper, mahogany forests, shrimp, hydropower

Land use:
arable land: 7.16%
permanent crops: 2.51%
other: 90.33% (2011)

Irrigated land: 346.2 km2 (2003)

Total renewable water resources: 148 km3 (2011)

Natural hazards: occasional severe storms and forest fires in the Darien area, earthquakes

Environment - current issues: water pollution from agricultural runoff threatens fishery resources; deforestation of tropical rain forest; land degradation and soil erosion threatens siltation of Panama Canal; air pollution in urban areas; mining threatens natural resources

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation

Geography - note: strategic location at eastern end of Central America; controls Panama Canal that links Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with Pacific Ocean. Central Panama has the unusual distinction of having the sun rise over the Pacific and set over the Atlantic.

Related Research Articles

Geography of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is located on the Central American Isthmus, surrounding the point 10° north of the equator and 84° west of the prime meridian. It borders both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, with a total of 1,290 km of coastline.

Geography of Colombia

The Republic of Colombia is a transcontinental country largely situated in the northwest of South America, with territories in North America. Colombia is bordered to the northwest by Panama; to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; and it shares maritime limits with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. Colombia is the 26th largest nation in the world and the fourth-largest country in South America after Brazil, Argentina, and Peru. Despite its large territory, Colombia's population is not evenly distributed, with most Colombians living in the mountainous western portion of the country as well as the northern coastline, most living in or near the capital city of Bogotá. The southern and eastern portions of the country are mostly sparsely inhabited tropical rainforest, and inland tropical plains containing large estates or large livestock farms, oil and gas production facilities, small farming communities and indigenous tribes.

Geography of El Salvador

El Salvador borders the North Pacific Ocean to the south and southwest, with Guatemala to the north-northwest and Honduras to the north-northeast. In the southeast, the Golfo de Fonseca separates it from Nicaragua. El Salvador is the smallest Central American country and is the only one without a coastline on the Caribbean sea. El Salvador is about the size of Israel and the states of New Jersey and Vermont, but has the population size of Lybia and Lebanon.

Geography of Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a country in Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Costa Rica and Honduras. Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America.

Panama City City in Panama

Panama City is the capital and largest city of Panama. It has an urban population of 880,691, with over 1.5 million in its metropolitan area. The city is located at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, in the province of Panama. The city is the political and administrative center of the country, as well as a hub for banking and commerce.

Bocas del Toro Province Province in Panama

Bocas del Toro (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈbokaz ðel ˈtoɾo]; meaning "Bull’s river mouths") is a province of Panama. Its area is 4,643.9 square kilometers, comprising the mainland and nine main islands. The province consists of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Bahía Almirante, Chiriquí Lagoon, and adjacent mainland. The capital is the city of Bocas del Toro on Isla Colón. Other major cities or towns include Almirante and Changuinola. The province has a population of 125,461 as of 2010.

Isthmus of Panama narrow landstrip in Panama

The Isthmus of Panama, also historically known as the Isthmus of Darien, is the narrow strip of land that lies between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, linking North and South America. It contains the country of Panama and the Panama Canal. Like many isthmuses, it is a location of great strategic value.

This is a list of the extreme points of Central America, the points that are farther north, south, east, or west than any other location on the region. The list also included highest and lowest points and identifies the most extensive lake.

Boquete, Chiriquí Place in Chiriquí, Panama

Boquete is a small mountain town in Panama. It is located in the western-most Province of Chiriquí, about 60 kilometres (37 mi) from the border with Costa Rica, and lies on the Caldera River, in Panama's green mountain highlands. Because of its elevation, some 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) above sea level, its climate is cooler than that of the lowlands. Its scenic location, temperature, and natural environment make it popular with Panamanians and attracts tourists and retirees from all over the world. Furthermore, Boquete is only 40 miles from the border between Panama and Costa Rica.

Puerto Armuelles City and corregimiento in Chiriquí, Panama

Puerto Armuelles is a city and corregimiento on Panama's Pacific coast in western Chiriquí Province next to Costa Rica. It is the seat of Barú District. Puerto Armuelles is the second largest city in Chiriqui province with a population near 25,000, and has two different type of deep-water ports, one for bananas and one for oil.

Volcán, Panama Town and corregimiento in Chiriquí, Panama

Volcán is a town and corregimiento in Tierras Altas District, Chiriquí Province, Panama. It has a land area of 233.7 square kilometres (90.2 sq mi) and had a population of 12,717 as of 2010, giving it a population density of 54.4 inhabitants per square kilometre (141/sq mi). Its population as of 1990 was 7,146; its population as of 2000 was 10,188.

Outline of Panama Overview of and topical guide to Panama

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Panama:

Index of Panama-related articles

The following is an alphabetical list of topics related to the Republic of Panamá.

Barriles

Barriles, is one of the most famous archaeological sites in Panama. It is located in the highlands of the Chiriquí Province of Western Panama at 1200 meters above sea level. It is several kilometers west of the modern town of Volcán. This places the site in the Gran Chiriquí culture area. The site was originally named for several small stone barrels found in the area, although these have also been found elsewhere in the Río Chiriquí Viejo valley and in Costa Rica. This area has a cool, spring-like climate with a pronounced rainy season between May and November, and a dry but windy season the rest of the year. The region lies on the western flanks of Volcán Barú, a dormant volcano and the highest mountain in Panama.

Santa Clara, Chiriquí Town and corregimiento in Chiriquí, Panama

Santa Clara is a town and corregimiento in Renacimiento District, Chiriquí Province, Panama. It has a land area of 67 square kilometres (26 sq mi) and had a population of 2,642 as of 2010, giving it a population density of 39.5 inhabitants per square kilometre (102/sq mi). The corregimiento was created by Law 41 of April 30, 2003.

Costa Rica–Panama border international border

The Costa Rica–Panama border is the 330 km international boundary between Costa Rica and Panama. The border in its present state is demarcated by the Echandi-Fernandez Treaty of 1941.

Protected areas of Panama include:

References

  1. "Volcan Baru Summit Virtual Tour".