A landlocked country in West Africa, Mali has an area of about 1,240,000 km² (478,767 mi²), extending 1,852 km (1,151 mi) east-northeast to west-southwest and 1,258 km (782 mi) north-northwest to south-southeast. Comparatively, the area occupied by Mali is slightly less than the size of Angola, but slightly bigger than South Africa. Bounded on the north and northeast by Algeria, on the east and south by Niger, on the south by Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire, on the southwest by Guinea, on the west by Senegal, and on the west and northwest by Mauritania, Mali has a total boundary length of 7,243 km (4,661 mi). Mali's capital city, Bamako, is located in the southwestern part of the country.
There are few prominent surface features in Mali, which is crossed by two river systems – the Niger and the Senegal. In the southwest are low mountains deeply notched by valleys formed by the coursing of water. A second upland, in the circle formed by the Niger River, is virtually a plateau and contains Hombori Tondo, 1,155 m (3,789 ft), the highest point in Mali. In the northeast is Adrar des Iforas, an extension of Algeria's Ahaggar Mountains. The republic is divided into three natural zones: the Sudanese, an area of cultivation covering some 200,000 km² (77,200 mi²) in the south and in the inland delta; the Sahelian; and the Saharan.
Southern and western Mali have a Sudanese climate with a short rainy season from June to September. Rainfall averages 140 cm (55 in) at Sikasso in the far south. To the north is the Sahelian zone, a semiarid region along the southern border of the Sahara. At Gao, in Mali's northeast Sahel, rainfall is about 23 cm (9 in) a year. Actual year-to-year rainfall, however, is extremely erratic. In the Sahelian zone there are considerable variations of temperature, especially in April, May, and June, the period of maximum heat, and in December, when the hot, dry harmattan blows. Continuing north, one gradually enters into a Saharan climate, marked by the virtual absence of rain and an extremely dry atmosphere. Over 40% of the country is, in fact, desert, and unsuitable for agriculture. The year is divided into three main seasons varying in length according to latitude: October-January, a cool and dry season; February-May, a hot and dry season; and June-September, a season of rains characterised by lower temperatures and an increase in humidity. Between 1968 and 1974, Mali, with neighbouring Sahel states, experienced the worst drought in 60 years. Drought returned during 1982-85, and there is continuing concern over the southward advance of the desert.
interior Western Africa, southwest of Algeria, north of Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, and Burkina Faso, west of Niger
Geographic coordinates :
17 00 N, 4 00 W
Map references :
total: 1,240,192 sq km
land: 1,220,190 sq km
water: 20,002 sq km
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