Venezuela is the most northerly country in South America, situated between 1° and 12°N. It is almost twice the size of France. It has a long coastline on the Caribbean Sea and is bordered on the west by Colombia, on the east by Guyana, and on the south by Brazil.
In Venezuela the main chain of the Andes mountains runs from west to east, thus leaving a narrow coastal plain on the Caribbean shore. In the west there is a more extensive marshy lowland around Lake Maracaibo. To the south of the Andes there is a large lowland area in the valley of the River Orinoco, known as the Llanos; this has a typical tropical climate with a single rainy season. In the southeast of the country the land rises to a plateau, extending into Guyana, with an average height of some 600 m/2,000 ft; from this plateau numerous hills rise to more than 1,800 m/6,000 ft.
Venezuela is unusual among South American countries in that almost everywhere the main rainy season is from April to October at the time of high sun. Towards the west of the country there is a tendency for a double rainy season, as in Colombia. The northern lowland, particularly in the west, has a surprisingly dry climate for a tropical coast. This is thought to be a consequence of the direction of the coastline in relation to the frequent northeast trade winds.
The Andes in Venezuela are lower and narrower than in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, but there are a number of individual peaks rising above 4,600m/15,000 ft which carry snow throughout the year. There are many local variations of weather and climate as a result of altitude; the threefold division into tierra caliente, tierra templada, and tierra fria, described for Bolivia, applies to this region.
The northern slopes of the Andes tend to have less rainfall than the southern side. Caracas, at an altitude of 900 m/3,000 ft, has a climate typical of the tierra templada, but shows traces of the relative dryness which affects the whole north coast. Over most of this area sunshine amounts are moderately high as a consequence of the lack of cloud and rain; ranging from six hours a day in the wetter months to as much as eight hours in the drier months. Annual rainfall in the mountains is usually over 1,000 mm/40 in but is less in some sheltered valleys and on the northern slopes. On the coast the rainfall increases from the very low annual totals around Lake Maracaibo (see the table for Maracaibo) to as much as 1,000 mm/40 in in the east. The lowlands around Lake Maracaibo are particularly hot in all months.
In the Llanos region of the Orinoco valley there is a typical hot, tropical climate with a single wetter season between April and October. Over most of this region annual rainfall is 1,000-1,500 mm/40-60 in. Temperature varies little from month to month and there is never any really cool weather. The wet months are the most uncomfortable because of the combination of heat and high humidity.
In the southeast on the Guyana plateau rainfall is rather heavier, generally above 1,500 mm/60 in per year, but with a definite dry season at the time of low sun. Temperatures are moderated by the higher altitude and humidity is rather lower than in the Llanos. The table for Santa Elena is representative of this plateau region.
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