Ecuador, as its name implies, lies athwart the equator between 1°N and 5°S on the west coast of South America. It is a small country, a little larger than the United Kingdom and about the size of the state of Arizona. It is bordered by Colombia on the north and by Peru on the west and south. Mainland Ecuador includes three types of country, which form three different and distinctive climatic regions: a narrow coastal plain, a high mountainous central region including the main Andean mountain ranges, and a forested lowland region in the east which is part of the Amazon basin. The Galápagos Islands, 1,050 km/650 mi west of the coast of Ecuador, constitute a fourth climatic region.
This island group lies almost on the equator. There are some fifteen large, and hundreds of smaller, islands with a total area of about 7,770 sq km/3,000 sq mi. They are famous for their unusual flora and fauna, and are now a nature reserve.
The islands have an unusual climate in view of their proximity to the equator; rainfall is low and temperatures are lower than would be expected. There are no extremes of heat or cold. This is a consequence of their location in the Pacific Ocean, where the cooler waters of the Humboldt Current have a marked effect on the weather. Although there is more rain on the large islands which are hilly, as the table for North Seymour Island shows, rainfall is low at sea level and comes in the period January to April. Light drizzle and even fog, however, are not uncommon at other times of the year.
The climate of the coastlands of Ecuador is indicated by the table for Guayaquil. Temperature and humidity are high here throughout the year. Guayaquil has a single main rainy season from December to April. Towards the north the total annual rainfall increases to as much as 2,000 mm/80 in or more and some rain falls in all months; this is a typical equatorial pattern of rainfall. In the extreme south of the coastal district, rainfall decreases sharply and is as low as 200 mm/8 in a year as the dry coastal belt of Peru is approached.
In the central Andean mountain region temperatures are much reduced by altitude and the division into tierra caliente, tierra templada, and tierra fria described for Bolivia is appropriate. Because of the heavier precipitation in Ecuador as compared with Peru and Bolivia, the snowline is at an altitude of about 5,000 m/16,000 ft. The effect of altitude at heights above 3,000 m/10,000 ft is something that the visitor should take into account.
The table for Quito in Andean Ecuador shows a climate that is often described as one of 'perpetual spring', with warm days and chilly nights and little variation of temperature around the year. Much of the rainfall in this mountainous region comes in the afternoon and evening as clouds build up over the mountains and thunderstorms develop. Sunshine hours are least at Quito in the rainy season, when they average four to five a day and greatest in the dry season when there are as many as seven to eight.
The eastern part of the country at the foot of the Andes is low-lying and has a typical hot, wet, equatorial type of climate with rainfall well distributed throughout the year. It is similar to that described for the extensive Amazon forest region of Brazil.
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