The 7,686,850 km² Australian landmass is on the Indo-Australian Plate and is surrounded by the Indian, Southern and Pacific oceans, and separated from Asia by the Arafura and Timor seas, with total of 25,760 km of coastline.
Facts about Australia:
• The land area of Australia is about 3 million square miles (7,773,000 km2). It is similar in size to the United States, excluding Alaska and Hawaii.
• More than one-third of the country lies within the Tropics and overall it extends from 10° S latitude to nearly 45ºS latitude.
• The Foveaux Strait flows between Stewart Island and South Island.
• A portion of the south Pacific known as the Tasman Sea separates Australia and New Zealand.
• Mawson is Australia’s oldest Antarctic station, established in 1954 and named after Antarctic explorer and geologist Sir Douglas Mawson.
• Australia is currently moving north east at a rate of 73 millimetres per year. Geoscience Australia monitors regional earthquake risk by measuring the movement of tectonic plates. The Australian continent is part of the Indian-Australian tectonic plate, which is slowly moving, carrying the continent with it.
• Tasmania is separated from mainland Australia by Bass Strait and is the smallest state in Australia.
• Western Australia is the largest state in area. The east of the state is mostly desert while on the west, the state is bound by 12, 889 kilometres of the world’s most pristine coastline.
• Located just off the coast of southern Queensland, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world.
• South Australia is known as the ‘Festival State’, with more than 500 festivals taking place there every year.
• Mt. Kosciusko (7,328 feet, or 2,234 m), in the southeastern corner of the continent, is the highest point in Australia.
• New South Wales is Australia’s oldest and most populous state. Its capital, Sydney, is the nation’s largest city.
• Hot summers and mild winters characterize the temperature patterns of Australia. The location straddling the Tropic of Capricorn assures much intense sunshine for the entire continent, especially during the high sun period.
Physiographic regions of Australia
The three major physiographic regions of Australia are:
A. The Great Dividing Range
• The Eastern Highlands region of Australia is the highest part of Australia, being a series of hills, mountains and plateaux. This area is also known as the Great Dividing Range.
• These ranges include the New England Plateau, the Australian Alps, the Snowy Mountains (which are considered to be a part of the Australian Alps), the Blue Mountains and the Grampian Mountains.
• These landforms were made due to uplifting, folding and volcanic processes in the Earth’s crust.
• Australia’s tallest mountain is Mount Kosciuszko, which is found in New South Wales in the Australian Alps.
• Mount Kosciuszko stands at 2228 metres (m), which is less than half the height of the tallest mountain found in Europe.
B. The Central Lowlands
• The Central Lowlands are very dry because rainfall is blocked by the Eastern Highlands.
• The Central Lowlands region consists of a series of basins, low-lying land, lakes, and old lakebeds. Most of the land lies below 500 feet (153 m) elevation.
• The surface of Lake Eyre is the lowest point in the region, at about 40 feet (12 m) below sea level. The region contains two large basins: the largest is the Great Artesian Basin, the other is the Murray Basin.
• The Simpson Desert, which extends for 170 000 square kilometres (km2), is in the Central Lowlands. This desert is famous for its large red sand dunes and salt pans, which are intermittent (occasionally appearing) lakes that only have water in them when it rains. When there is no rain, however, the salt pans dry up, leaving behind white salts.
• The Central Lowlands have few tall mountains, but Flinders Range is located about 1100 km north of Adelaide and extends for 800 km. Its tallest peak, St. Mary Peak, is 1171 m tall.
C. The Western plateau
• The Western Plateau is also home to many deserts. Due to cold water currents off the coast of Western Australia, this region is very dry.
• Some of the deserts in this region include the Gibson, Tanami, Canning, Great Sandy and Great Victoria Deserts.
Australia is considered to be one of the driest continents on earth. However, because of its insular position and lack of natural features such as high mountain ranges, there are generally no extremes of climate. Climate varies because of the size of the continent.
The temperature ranges from 23°-26°C above the Tropic of Capricorn to 38°C in the arid plateaus and deserts of the interior. The southern areas are more temperate, although subject to wide variations such as high rainfall, great heat and irregular flooding and drought.
El Nino usually occurs in summer. Cold currents flow up the Peruvian coast from Antartica and are warmed by equatorial currents circulating across the Pacific from Australia. Warmed winds blowing across the current’s surface pick up moisture and deposit it on the Peruvian coast. The warm winds proceed across the central Pacific and in turn deposit rain on eastern Australia.
Every three to eight years the equatorial current is exceedingly strong and noticably warmer off the coast of Peru, resulting in strong winds bringing heavy rains and floods. At this time, waters off Australia become noticably cooler and winds weaken and are turned towards the Pacific, reducing the rain-bearing clouds across eastern Australia, resulting in drought.
La Nina is the opposite phenomenon, which results in abnormally strong winds over the western Pacific blowing across unusually warm currents off the east coast of Australia, resulting in flooding rains.
Australia’s major rivers flow through the Central Lowlands region.
In New Zealand, about four-fifths of south Island and one-fifth of North Island contain mountain landforms. Most of the remainder of North Island consists of steep hills and dissected plateaus. Plains are not prominent features of either island.
The mountains of the Southern Alps of south Island are the highest of Australasia. The tallest peak, Mount Cook, and numerous other mountains in the range exceed 10,000 feet.
The highest point of North Island is Mount Ruapehu, which reaches 9,175 feet (2,797m).
Most of New Zealand receives between 40 and 80 inches (100-200 cm) of precipitation annually, with little seasonal variation. The west coast of South Island is the wettest part of the country. The prevailing westerly winds push moist Pacific air onto the southern Alps, and the resulting uplift caused by the mountains produces precipitation that totals more than 120 inches (300 cm) a year.
The temperature patterns of New Zealand are cooler than those for Australia and, as with precipitation, there are fewer extremes. New Zealand has no hot regions like Australia’s deserts, but the higher island mountains get much colder than anywhere in Australia.
Summers in New Zealand are relatively short and cool, but the winters in the inhabited areas are mild.
The natural vegetation on New Zealand is about half temperate rainforest and half grassland. The forest includes such trees as conifers, beech, and tree ferns, as well as lianas (vines) and epiphytes. Areas of scrub vegetation are found between the forests and the grasslands.
Lakes of the New Zealand
Oceania is a region centered on the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean.
The following list contains the countries and territories that are classified as part of Oceania by UNESCO; other countries are sometimes considered part of Oceania (see Other Interpretations below).
• Australia – Commonwealth Realm
• Norfolk Island – External territory of Australia
• East Timor – Republic
• Fiji – Republic
• New Caledonia – Collectivity of France
• Papua New Guinea – Commonwealth Realm
• Solomon Islands – Commonwealth Realm
• Vanuatu – Republic
• Guam – Organized, unincorporated territory of the United States
• Kiribati – Republic
• Marshall Islands – Republic in free association with the United States
• Federated States of Micronesia – Republic in free association with the
• Nauru – Republic
• Northern Mariana Islands – Organized, unincorporated commonwealth in political union with the United States
• Palau – Republic in free association with the United States
• Wake Island – Unorganized, unincorporated territory of the United States
• American Samoa – Unorganized, unincorporated territory of the United States
• Cook Islands – Self-governing state in free association with New Zealand
• French Polynesia – “Overseas country” of France
• Niue – Self-governing state in free association with New Zealand
• New Zealand – Commonwealth Realm
• Pitcairn – Overseas territory of the United Kingdom
• Samoa – Constitutional monarchy under Malietoa Tanumafili II
• Tokelau – Semi-autonomous territory of New Zealand
• Tonga – Absolute monarchy under King Taufa’ahau Tupou V
• Tuvalu – Commonwealth Realm
• Wallis and Futuna Islands – Overseas collectivity of France
These territories, also located in Oceania, are not sovereign nations but former colonies of European, North American and Oceanian countries and still under control of France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
It covers following territories.
The climate of Oceania’s islands is tropical or subtropical, and ranges from humid to seasonally dry. Wetter parts of the islands are covered by tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests, while the drier parts of the islands, including the leeward sides of the islands and many of the low coral islands, are covered by tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests and tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands. Hawaii’s high volcanoes, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, are home to some rare tropical montane grasslands and shrublands.
The overwhelming majority of people in the Pacific (not including Australia and New Zealand) work in the primary sector. Many nations are still quintessentially agricultural; for example, 80 percent of the population of Vanuatu and 70 percent of the population of Fiji work in agriculture. The main produce from the Pacific is copra or coconut, but timber, beef, palm oil, cocoa, sugar, and ginger are also commonly grown across the tropics of the Pacific. Old growth logging is exploited on larger islands, including the Solomons and Papua New Guinea.
Fishing provides a major industry for many of the smaller nations in the Pacific, and the sale of fishing licenses can bring considerable income. However, many fishing areas are exploited by other larger countries, namely Japan.
Natural resources, such as lead, zinc, nickel, and gold, are mined across the west of the region, in the Solomon Islands and Australia. The manufacturing of clothing is a major industry in some parts of the Pacific, especially Fiji, although this is decreasing. Very little of the economy is in the area of investing and banking, save in the larger countries of Australia and New Zealand.
Recently, tourism has become a large source of income for many in the Pacific; tourists come from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Fiji currently draws almost half a million tourists each year; more than a quarter from Australia. This contributes US$300 million to Fiji’s economy.
Aside from tourism, many places in the Pacific still rely on foreign aid for development. In the Solomon Islands, 50 percent of government spending is paid for by international donors; namely Australia, New Zealand, the European Union, Japan, and the Republic of China (Taiwan).