Sierra Nevada (Spain)

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Sierra Nevada
Sierra Nevada (Spain).jpg
View of the Sierra Nevada
Highest point
Peak Mulhacén
Elevation 3,479 m (11,414 ft)
Coordinates 37°03′N03°18′W / 37.050°N 3.300°W / 37.050; -3.300 Coordinates: 37°03′N03°18′W / 37.050°N 3.300°W / 37.050; -3.300
Relief Map of Spain.png
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Sierra Nevada
Location in Spain
Location Provinces of Granada, Almería and Málaga
Country Spain
Region Andalucia
Parent range Penibaetic System
Age of rock Tertiary
Mountain type Alpine

Sierra Nevada (Spanish:  [ˈsjera neˈβaða] ; meaning "mountain range covered in snow") is a mountain range in the region of Andalucia, in the province of Granada and, a little further, Málaga and Almería in Spain. It contains the highest point of continental Spain: [note 1] Mulhacén, at 3,479 metres (11,414 ft) above sea level.


It is a popular tourist destination, as its high peaks make skiing possible in one of Europe's most southerly ski resorts, in an area along the Mediterranean Sea predominantly known for its warm temperatures and abundant sunshine. At its foothills is found the city of Granada and, a little further, Almería and Málaga.

Parts of the range have been included in the Sierra Nevada National Park. The range has also been declared a biosphere reserve. The Sierra Nevada Observatory and the IRAM radiotelescope are located on the northern slopes at an elevation of 2,800 metres (9,200 ft).


The Sierra Nevada was formed during the Alpine Orogeny, a mountain-building event that also formed the European Alps to the east and the Atlas Mountains of northern Africa across the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The Sierra as observed today formed during the Paleogene and Neogene Periods (66 to 1.8 million years ago) from the collision of the African and Eurasian continental plates.


Sierra Nevada Fargue.jpg
Sierra Nevada from Alquería de Fargue near Granada

Central to the mountain range is a ridge running broadly west-south-west - east-north-east. For a substantial distance, the watershed stays consistently above 3,000 metres (9,800 ft). This is sufficient altitude for the peaks to be consistently snow-covered. [1]

On the southern side of the range, several long, narrow river valleys lead off towards the south-west, separated by a number of subsidiary ridges. On the steeper and craggier northern side, the valleys have less regular orientations. This side is dominated by the Rio Genil which starts near Mulhacén and into which many of the other rivers flow.

Geologically, the range is composed chiefly of soft micaceous schists, sloping steeply to the north, but more gradually to the south and south-east. [1]

Highest peaks

Highest peaks of Sierra Nevada
Peak (> 3,000m)Height (m)
Mulhacén 3,479
Veleta 3,398
Alcazaba 3,371
Cerro los Machos3,324
Puntal de Siete Lagunas3,248
Puntal de la Caldera3,226
Pico de Elorrieta3,206
Crestones Río Seco3,198
Loma Pelada3,187
Cerro Pelado3,179
Tajos de la Virgen3,160
Tosal del Cartujo3,152
Pico de La Atalaya3,148
Puntal de Vacares3,143
Cerro Rasero3,139
Tajos del Nevero3,120
Raspones Río Seco3,120
Tajos Altos3,111
Picón de Jeres3,090
Tajo de los Machos3,088
Cerrillo Redondo3,058
Juego de Bolos3,018
Pico del Caballo 3,013


According to the Köppen climate classification, Sierra Nevada has a Mediterranean climate, with different variations depending on the altitude. Above 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) the climate is Mediterranean subalpine (Dsc), due to the location's high elevation and low summer precipitation. With June and September being around the threshold of 10 °C (50 °F) in mean temperature to avoid the subarctic classification, the climate at a slightly lower elevation is continental highland climate. At an elevation slightly lower than that classification area; where February means average above −3 °C (27 °F); it falls into the normal cool-summer mediterranean classification transitioning with the hot-summer variety in surrounding lowland areas. This renders Sierra Nevada's climate a highland cooled-down variety of a typical mediterranean climate. Summer and winter daytime temperatures are some 12° C cooler than found in Granada, differences that are even greater in spring as Sierra Nevada takes longer to approach the short summers. In May daytime highs in Sierra Nevada are around 4 °C (39 °F) with Granada having an average of 24 °C (75 °F). The yearly temperature of 3.9 °C (39.0 °F) at the ski station of Pradollano is in stark contrast to Granada's 15.7 °C (60.3 °F) and coastal Málaga's 18.5 °C (65.3 °F). [2] [3]

Climate data for Pradollano Ski Station (1975–1989); 2,507 metres (8,225 ft)
Average high °C (°F)0.3
Daily mean °C (°F)−2.9
Average low °C (°F)−6.1
Average precipitation mm (inches)86.7
Source 1: Phytosociological Research Center [4]
Source 2: Worldwide Bioclimatic Classification System (Complutense University of Madrid) [5]


See also


  1. The highest peak in Spanish territory is Teide on the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, which politically Spanish but geographically part of Africa.

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  1. 1 2 Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Sierra Nevada, The"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 57.
  2. "Standard climate values for Granada". Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  3. "Standard climate values for Málaga". Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  4. "Datos climátológicos de Sierra Nevada" (in Spanish). Phytosociological Research Center.
  5. "Diagramas Climáticos de Pradollano" (in Spanish). S.Rivas-Martínez, Centro de Investigaciones Fitosociológicas, Madrid. 23 June 2020.


Further reading

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