Amazon River – September 5th, 2008
The Amazon basin, the largest drainage basin in the world, covers an area of some 6,915,000 square kilometres (2,670,000 sq mi), or some 40 percent of South America. It gathers its waters from 5 degrees north latitude to 20 degrees south latitude. Its most remote sources are found on the inter-Andean plateau, just a short distance from the Pacific Ocean.
The area covered by the water of the River and its tributaries more than triples over the course of a year. In an average dry season 110,000 square kilometres (42,000 sq mi) of land are water-covered, while in the wet season the flooded area of the Amazon Basin rises to 350,000 square kilometres (135,000 sq mi). At its widest point the Amazon River can be 11 kilometres (7 mi) wide during the dry season, but during the rainy season when the Amazon floods the surrounding plains it can be up to 45 kilometres (28 mi) wide.
The quantity of water released by the Amazon to the Atlantic Ocean is enormous: up to 300,000 m³ per second in the rainy season. The Amazon is responsible for a fifth of the total volume of fresh water entering the oceans worldwide. Offshore of the mouth of the Amazon, potable water can be drawn from the ocean while still out of sight of the coastline, and the salinity of the ocean is notably lower two hundred kilometres out to sea.
The Amazon estuary is some 330 kilometres (210 mi) wide. The width of the mouth of the river is usually measured from Cabo do Norte to Punto Patijoca. But this includes the ocean outlet, 60 km (40 mi) wide, of the Para river, which should be deducted, as this stream is only the lower reach of the Tocantins. It also includes the ocean frontage of Marajó, an island lying in the mouth of the Amazon. This means that the Amazon is wider at its mouth than the entire length of the Thames in England.