Colombia, in northern South America, has a coastline both on the Pacific Ocean and on the Caribbean Sea. It borders Panama on the northwest, Venezuela and Brazil on the east, and Peru and Ecuador on the south. It is about twice as large as France or the state of Texas.
Extending between 12°N and 4°S, it experiences a tropical climate, but in the higher parts of the country this is much modified by altitude. There are narrow plains along the coast but inland altitude rises sharply to the high ranges of the Andes. In the southeast of the country there are extensive lowlands in the forested Amazon basin.
On the Pacific coast, and on the lower slopes of the western Andes, rainfall is almost everywhere over 2,500 mm/100 in and in many places it is more than 5,000 mm/200 in. All months are wet. Temperatures and humidity remain high throughout the year and the climate is generally sultry and oppressive. An unusual feature of this area is the fact that the heaviest rainfall occurs during the night, which is rare for equatorial regions, although there are frequent afternoon thunderstorms. The table for Andagoya is typical of this area.
The coastlands on the Caribbean are not so wet, and there is a drier period from December to March. The area is also hot and humid. In the east of this coast, near the Venezuelan border, annual rainfall is low for a tropical coastland.
Most of central Colombia is mountainous; the higher Andean peaks rise to over 5,500 m/18,000 ft. The Andes are here made up of a series of mountain ranges between which the large rivers, the Magdelena and the Cauca, flow northwards in wide valleys. There are considerable differences of temperature depending on altitude. The mountains above 4,500 m/15,000 ft receive most of their precipitation as snow. The whole region receives abundant precipitation of between 1,000-2,500 mm/40-100 in a year, and this is well distributed throughout the year with no real dry season. The western ranges are wetter than those to the east. The threefold division into tierra caliente, tierra templada, and tierra fria, as described for Bolivia, is equally true for Colombia. The table for Bogotá is typical of conditions in the higher tierra fria zone. Here the weather and climate are truly those of 'perpetual spring', as understood in temperate latitudes.
Nights are cool but never really cold, and at this height frost is unknown. The days feel warm in the sun but are never really hot. Rain and afternoon cloud are frequent. Sunshine averages from three to five hours a day throughout the year. At lower levels, and in the drier valleys, sunshine is rather more, from six to seven hours a day.
The lowland in the east of the country is sparsely populated and as yet largely undeveloped. Climate here is hot throughout the year and wet weather is frequent, with an annual rainfall of 2,000-2,500 mm/80-100 in. As in other parts of the northern Amazon basin, there are two relatively wetter periods: December to January and April to May. The table for Manaus in Brazil is representative of this wet equatorial lowland.
© Copyright RM, 2007. All rights reserved. Helicon Publishing is a division of RM.