South America is the southern subcontinent of America. It is crossed by the equatorial line at its northern end, thus leaving most of its territory within the Southern Hemisphere. It is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. It occupies an area of 17.8 million km², which represents 42% of the American continent and 12% of the emerged lands, and is inhabited by 6% of the world’s population.
From the 16th century to the early 19th century, most of South America was divided into colonies governed, mainly, by Spain and Portugal, followed by a colony from the United Kingdom, one from France and another from Holland, which gradually became republics, with the exception of French Guiana and the Falkland Islands and neighboring islands. See list of countries in South America.
The territory of South America has an area of 17,819,100 km². Its coasts have a length of 34,500 km (25,432 km of the continental mass). The Cordillera de los Andes stands out for being the longest and youngest mountain range in the world, as well as the highest after the Himalayas. South America is home to a great variety of climates: the warm humidity of the Amazon Rainforest, the dry cold of Patagonia, the aridity of the Atacama Desert, the winds of Tierra del Fuego.
26% of the Earth’s fresh water is found in South America, where the basins of the Amazon rivers (the largest on the planet), Orinoco and Paraná stand out for their enormous extension. Due to the presence of the Andes mountains parallel to the Pacific Ocean, the rivers with the largest channel and basin are those that discharge their waters into the Atlantic Ocean.
South America climate
The climate in South America is extremely complex because of the enormous north-south extent and the extreme differences in altitude. It ranges from extreme heat to arctic cold and from humid and humid areas to the driest deserts in the world.
Always humid tropical climate
The plains in the north are tropical and hot with average temperatures of 24-30 degrees. The proximity to the equator also ensures a lot of precipitation (1,500-10,000 mm), a high humidity of up to 90% and only small fluctuations between day and night temperatures.
There are only two seasons, rainy and dry. With the exception of the northwest, it is humid and hot in the winter half-year, and a little drier and cooler in the summer half-year.
Alternately humid tropical climate
The climate in the heart of South America is tropical and humid. The rainy season covers the months from October to April. In the dry season it is very hot with temperatures sometimes over 40 ° C. In addition, there is a high level of humidity.
The subtropics begin in the south of Brazil. The mean values here are 25 degrees in southern summer and 8-15 ° C in southern winter. South trade winds ensure maximum rain in summer.
Coastal deserts with great temperature differences between day and night can be found on the coasts of Peru and northern Chile. This is due to the cold Humboldt current, which creates a very stable high-pressure climate. This makes rain the absolute exception. However, the coasts are often covered in fog.
The further you penetrate into the south of Chile and Argentina, the more moderate the climate becomes. The daytime temperatures are around 5 degrees in winter. From October to April, the values are 15 to 20 ° C. While Patagonia is dry in the rain shadow, the temperate south of Chile receives significant amounts of rain.
Cool temperate climate
The cool, temperate, maritime and windy climate in the extreme south shows only relatively minor differences between summer and winter. The maximum temperatures reach only 9-14 ° C even in the warmest month of January. In the coldest month, the thermometer still rises to four to six degrees. The rainfall is very high. Several thousand millimeters come down from the sky every year.
In the Andes along the west coast of South America, the seasonal temperature fluctuations are also small ; however, the values drop significantly with increasing altitude, until they finally end with an alpine climate. It is much drier in the mountains than in the tropical plains.
Best travel time for South America
The period from May to October is to be regarded as the optimal travel time for most of the north and central parts of South America. Then it rains less and the temperatures are not that hot either. A visit to these regions during our winter months speaks against the high rainfall as well as the high temperatures and the great humidity.
Exceptions to these recommendations apply on the one hand to the north-west, where the winter months are preferable due to the different dry season.
On the other hand, in the temperate and subtropical climatic zones in the south, the months between May and August are cool in autumn or even cold in winter. For the subtropics, the warm but not hot transitional months of March / April and September / October are the best times to travel.
For the temperate south is summer (December to February) recommended. This is not only supported by the warm weather, but also by the fact that many tourist services are only offered then.
The ski season in the southern Andes runs from mid-June to mid-October.
Also see Abbreviation Finder for a list of abbreviations and acronyms of all countries in the continent of South America.