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Physical Geography

Haiti is a country of about 28,000 square kilometers, and one of two countries occupying the island of Hispaniola. It is the third largest country in the Caribbean behind Cuba and the Dominican Republic (with which it shares Hispaniola). Haiti is made of up three main regions on the mainland (the northern, central and southern regions), and several islands. Haiti is two-thirds mountainous, with the rest of the country marked by great valleys, extensive plateaus, and small plains. Many of the slopes are denuded and degraded, making much of the country vulnerable to disaster impacts, particularly from floods and landslides. The highest point is Pic La Stelle in the Massif De La Selle, which stands at 2,680 m. The only major river is the Artibonite which flows across the border from its neighbor, the Dominican Republic. There are, however a few dozen smaller rivers and hundreds of (small) streams traversing the country. At an elevation of sixteen meters above sea level in the southern region, the salt-water Etang Saumâtre lake is twenty kilometers long and six to fourteen kilometers wide; it has a circumference of eighty-eight kilometers.


Haiti has a generally hot and humid tropical climate. The average annual rainfall is 1400 to 2000mm, but it is unevenly distributed and varies with altitude. Heavier rainfall occurs in the southern peninsula and in the northern plains and mountains. Rainfall decreases from east to west across the northern peninsula. The eastern central region receives a moderate amount of precipitation, while the western coast from the northern peninsula to Port-au-Prince, the capital, is relatively dry. Port-au-Prince receives an average annual rainfall of 1148.1 mm. There are two rainy seasons, April–June and October–November, with peaks in May (averaging 153.0mm) and October (averaging 140.0mm). There is much variability in monthly rainfall with months recording from as low as 0mm, particularly during the dry season to as much as 501.0mm in October 2003.


Temperatures are almost always high in the lowland areas, ranging from 15° C to 25° C in the winter and from 25° C to 35° C during the summer. At Port-au-Prince, as like most Caribbean stations, the annual temperature range is less than 5oC. The warmest month is July (averaging 31oC) and the coolest January (averaging 26.7oC).