Australia – September 6th, 2008
Australia’s landmass of 7,617,930 square kilometres (2,941,300 sq mi) is on the Indo-Australian Plate. Surrounded by the Indian and Pacific oceans, Australia is separated from Asia by the Arafura and Timor seas. Australia has 34,218 kilometres (21,262 mi) of coastline (excluding all offshore islands) and claims an extensive exclusive economic zone of 8,148,250 square kilometres (3,146,060 sq mi). This exclusive economic zone does not include the Australian Antarctic Territory.
The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef, lies a short distance off the northeast coast and extends for over 2,000 kilometres (1,240 mi). Mount Augustus, claimed to be the world’s largest monolith, is located in Western Australia. At 2,228 metres (7,310 ft), Mount Kosciuszko on the Great Dividing Range is the highest mountain on the Australian mainland, although Mawson Peak on the remote Australian territory of Heard Island is taller at 2,745 metres (9,006 ft).
By far the largest part of Australia is desert or semi-arid lands commonly known as the outback. Australia is the flattest continent, with the oldest and least fertile soils, and is the driest inhabited continent. Only the southeast and southwest corners of the continent have a temperate climate. Most of the population lives along the temperate southeastern coastline.
Australia has had a relatively stable geological history. Geological forces such as Tectonic uplift of mountain ranges or clashes between tectonic plates occurred mainly in Australia’s early history, when it was still a part of Gondwana.
Erosion and weathering have heavily weathered Australia’s surface and it is one of the flattest countries in the world.
Australia is situated in the middle of the tectonic plate, and therefore has no active volcanism, although it may sometimes receive minor earthquakes. The terrain is mostly heavily weathered, low plateau with deserts, rangelands and a fertile plain in the southeast.
Tasmania and the Australian Alps do not contain any permanent icefields or glaciers, although they may have existed in the past. The Great Barrier Reef, by far the world’s largest coral reef, lies a short distance off the north-east coast. Mount Augustus, in Western Australia, is the largest monolith in the world.
The landscapes of the northern part of the country, with a tropical climate, consist of rainforest, woodland, grassland, mangrove swamps, and desert. The climate is significantly influenced by ocean currents, including the El Niño southern oscillation, which is correlated with periodic drought, and the seasonal tropical low pressure system that produces cyclones in northern Australia.
In June 2008 it became known that an expert panel had warned of long term, maybe irreversible, severe ecological damage for the whole Murray-Darling basin if it does not receive sufficient water by October.
The Great Artesian Basin – an important source of water, it is the world’s largest and deepest fresh water basin.
A number of towns and cities across the country are facing major water storage and usage crisis in which restrictions and other measures are taken to reduce water consumption. Water restrictions are based on a gradient of activities that become progressively banned as the situation worsens.
Water restrictions are currently in place in many regions and cities of Australia in response to chronic shortages resulting from drought.
The Australian of the Year 2007, environmentalist Tim Flannery, predicted that unless it made drastic changes, Perth in Western Australia could become the world’s first ghost metropolis, an abandoned city with no more water to sustain its population.