The geography of Cyprus entails the physical and human geography of Cyprus, an island country situated in the Eastern Basin of the Mediterranean Sea. The third largest island in the Mediterranean (after the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia) and the world's 81st largest, it is located south of the Anatolian peninsula (Asia Minor), or modern-day Turkey, of the Asian (or Eurasian) mainland. As such, it may be included in Western Asia or the Middle East: at a confluence of Western Asia, Southern Europe, and Northern Africa, Cyprus has had lengthy periods of mainly Greek and intermittent Anatolian, Levantine, Byzantine, and British influences. A member of the European Union since 1 May 2004, it is sometimes included in Europe.
Cyprus measures 240 kilometres latitudinally and 100 km longitudinally, with Turkey 75 km to the north. Other neighbouring territories include Syria and Lebanon to the east (105 km and 108 km, respectively), Israel 200 km to the southeast, Egypt 380 km to the south, and Greece to the west-northwest: 280 km to the small Dodecanesian island of Kastellórizo (Meyísti), 400 km to Rhodes, and 800 km to the Greek mainland.
The physical setting for life on the island is dominated by the mountain masses and the central plain they encompass, the Mesaoria. The Troodos Mountains cover most of the southern and western portions of the island and account for roughly half its area. The narrow Kyrenia Range, extending along the northern coastline, occupies substantially less area, and elevations are lower. The two mountain systems run generally parallel to the Taurus Mountains on the Turkish mainland, whose silhouette is visible from northern Cyprus. Coastal lowlands, varying in width, surround the island.
Geopolitically, the island is subdivided into four main segments. The Republic of Cyprus, the internationally recognized government, occupies the southern two-thirds of the island. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus occupies the northern third of the island and is recognised only by Turkey. The United Nations-controlled Green Line is a buffer zone that separates the two. Lastly, two bases under British sovereignty are located on the island: Akrotiri and Dhekelia.
Geographic coordinates:: 34°33’–35°34’ N; 32°16’–34°37’ E
The rugged Troodos Mountains, whose principal range stretches from Pomos Point in the northwest almost to Larnaca Bay on the east, are the single most conspicuous feature of the landscape. Intensive uplifting and folding in the formative period left the area highly fragmented, so that subordinate ranges and spurs veer off at many angles, their slopes incised by steep-sided valleys. In the southwest, the mountains descend in a series of stepped foothills to the coastal plain.
While the Troodos Mountains are a massif formed of molten igneous rock, the Kyrenia Range is a narrow limestone ridge that rises suddenly from the plains. Its easternmost extension becomes a series of foothills on the Karpass Peninsula. That peninsula points toward Asia Minor, to which Cyprus belongs geologically.
Even the highest peaks of the Kyrenia Range are hardly more than half the height of the great dome of the Troodos massif, Mount Olympus (1,952 m), but their seemingly inaccessible, jagged slopes make them considerably more spectacular. British writer Lawrence Durrell, in Bitter Lemons, wrote of the Troodos as "an unlovely jumble of crags and heavyweight rocks" and of the Kyrenia Range as belonging to "the world of Gothic Europe, its lofty crags studded with crusader castles."
Rich copper deposits were discovered in antiquity on the slopes of the Troodos. Geologists speculate that these deposits may have originally formed under the Mediterranean Sea, as a consequence of the upwelling of hot, mineral-laded water through a zone where plates that formed the ocean floor were pulling apart.
The Mesaoria is the agricultural heartland of the island, but its productiveness for wheat and barley depends very much on winter rainfall; other crops are grown under irrigation. Little evidence remains that this broad, central plain, open to the sea at either end, was once covered with rich forests whose timber was coveted by ancient conquerors for their sailing vessels. The now-divided capital of the island, Nicosia, lies in the middle of this central plain.
The Mediterranean climate, warm and rather dry, with rainfall mainly between November and March, favors agriculture. In general, the island experiences mild wet winters and dry hot summers. Variations in temperature and rainfall are governed by altitude and, to a lesser extent, distance from the coast. Hot, dry summers from mid-May to mid-September and rainy, rather changeable winters from November to mid-March are separated by short autumn and spring seasons.
In summer the island is mainly under the influence of a shallow trough of low pressure extending from the great continental depression centred over southwest Asia. It is a season of high temperatures with almost cloudless skies.
In winter Cyprus is near the track of fairly frequent small depressions which cross the Mediterranean Sea from west to east between the continental anticyclone of Eurasia and the generally low pressure belt of North Africa. These depressions give periods of disturbed weather usually lasting for a day or so and produce most of the annual precipitation, the average rainfall from December to February being about 60% of the average annual total precipitation for the island as a whole, which is 500 mm.
The higher mountain areas are cooler and moister than the rest of the island. They receive the heaviest annual rainfall, which may be as much as 1,000 millimeters. Sharp frost also occurs in the higher districts, which are usually blanketed with snow during the first months of the year. Precipitation increases from 450 millimetres up the south-western windward slopes to nearly 1,100 millimetres at the top of the Troodos massif. The narrow ridge of the Kyrenia range, stretching 160 km from west to east along the extreme north of the island produces a relatively small increase in rainfall of around 550 millimetres along its ridge at an elevation of 1,000 metres. Plains along the northern coast and in the Karpass Peninsula area average 400 to 450 millimeters of annual rainfall. The least rainfall occurs in the Mesaoria, with 300 to 400 millimeters a year. Variability in annual rainfall is characteristic for the island, however, and droughts are frequent and sometimes severe. Statistical analysis of rainfall in Cyprus reveals a decreasing trend of rainfall amounts in the last 30 years. Earthquakes, usually not destructive, occur from time to time.
Rainfall in the warmer months contributes little or nothing to water resources and agriculture. Autumn and winter rainfall, on which agriculture and water supply generally depend, is somewhat variable from year to year.
Summer temperatures are high in the lowlands, even near the sea, and reach particularly uncomfortable readings in the Mesaoria. The mean daily temperature in July and August ranges between 29 °C on the central plain to 22 °C on the Troodos mountains, while the average maximum temperature for these months ranges between 36 °C and 27 °C respectively. Because of the scorching heat of the lowlands, some of the villages in the Troodos have developed as resort areas, with summer as well as winter seasons. The mean annual temperature for the island as a whole is about 20 °C. The amount of sunshine the island enjoys enhances the tourist industry. On the Mesaoria in the eastern lowland, for example, there is bright sunshine 75 percent of the time. During the four summer months, there is an average of eleven and one-half hours of sunshine each day, and in the cloudiest winter months there is an average of five and one-half hours per day.
Winters are mild with a mean January temperature of 10 °C on the central plain and 3 °C on the higher parts of the Troodos mountains and with an average minimum temperature of 5 °C and 0 °C respectively. In winter the temperature in troodos mountains reaches -7°C. Snow on the coasts is extremely rare and usually falls mixed with rain. Only in February 1950 the whole island was covered by snow.
Relative humidity of the air is on average between 60% and 80% in winter and between 40% and 60% in summer with even lower values over inland areas around midday. Fog is infrequent and visibility is generally very good. Sunshine is abundant during the whole year and particularly from April to September when the average duration of bright sunshine exceeds 11 hours per day.
Winds are generally light to moderate and variable in direction. Strong winds may occur sometimes, but gales are infrequent over Cyprus and are mainly confined to exposed coastal areas as well as areas at high elevation
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 648 km
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
territorial sea: 12 nm (22.4 km)
lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Olympus 1,952 m
arable land: 12%
permanent crops: 5%
permanent pastures: 0%
forests and woodland: 13%
other: 70% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 400 km² (1999 UN est.)
Environment - current issues: water resource problems (no natural reservoir catchments, seasonal disparity in rainfall, sea water intrusion to island's largest aquifer, increased salination in the north); water pollution from sewage and industrial wastes; coastal degradation; loss of wildlife habitats from urbanization
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants
Sowing Seeds in an Untilled Field: Temperance and Race, Indeterminacy and Recovery in Frances E. W. Harper's Sowing and Reaping
Jun 01, 2007; [Woman's] individuality must be recognized before the evils of intemperance can cease to exist. How absurd the idea--how...