Land and Resources, Physical Regions
temperate marine, Puerto Montt, Aconcagua, volcanic activity, Ojos
Chile can be divided longitudinally into three topographic zones: the lofty Andean cordillera on the east; the low coastal mountains on the west; and the plateau area, which includes the Central Valley, between these ranges. Latitudinally, three major geographical and climatological regions can be distinguished: the northern (arid), central (Mediterranean), and southern (temperate marine) regions.
The ranges of the Andes are widest in the northern region, forming broad plateaus and containing many mountains with elevations in excess of 6,100 m (20,000 ft). The country’s highest peak, Ojos del Salado (6,880 m/22,572 ft), is found on the border with Argentina. The plateau area is occupied by the great Atacama Desert, which contains vast nitrate fields and rich mineral deposits.
In the central region the plateau gives way to a valley, known as the Central Valley, about 1,000 km (about 600 mi) long. The valley, which ranges from 40 to 80 km (25 to 50 mi) in width, is the most heavily populated area of the country. The fertile area between the Aconcagua and Biobio rivers forms the agricultural heartland of Chile. The central Andes are narrower in width and have lower elevations than those in the north. The most important passes in the Andes are located here. The country’s finest natural harbors are located in this region.
The southern region is without an interior valley; it disappears below the sea at Puerto Montt. The long chains of islands along the coast are formed by the peaks of the submerged coastal mountains. The coastline here is indented by numerous fjords. The southern Andes have elevations that seldom exceed 1,800 m (6,000 ft). Chile lies in a zone of geologic instability and is subject to earthquakes and volcanic activity.
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