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Sweden Geography


Fourth in size among the countries of Europe, Sweden is the largest of the Scandinavian countries, with about 15% of its total area situated north of the Arctic Circle. Extreme length, north to south, is 1,574 km (978 mi) and greatest breadth, east to west, is 499 km (310 mi). Sweden has a total area of 449,964 sq km (173,732 sq mi): land area, 410,934 sq km (158,663 sq mi); water area, 39,030 sq km (15,070 sq mi), including some 96,000 lakes.

Comparatively, the area occupied by Sweden is slightly larger than the state of California. Sweden is bounded on the north and northeast by Finland, on the east by the Gulf of Bothnia, on the southeast by the Baltic Sea, on the southwest by the Öresund, the Kattegat and the Skagarrak, and on the west by Norway, with a total boundary length of 5,423 km (3,370 mi), of which 3,218 km (2000 mi) is coastline.

The two largest Swedish islands in the Baltic Sea are Gotland and Öland. Sweden's capital city, Stockholm, is located on the southeast Baltic Sea coast.

Northern Sweden (Norrland) slopes from the Kjölen Mountains along the Norwegian frontier (with the high point at Kebnekaise, 2,111 m/ 6,926 ft) to the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia.

The many rivers – notably the Göta, the Dal, the Angerman, the Ume, and the Lule – flow generally toward the southeast and have incised the plateau surface; waterfalls abound.

Central Sweden, consisting of a down-faulted lowland, has several large lakes, of which Vänern (5,584 sq km/2,156 sq mi) is the largest in Europe outside the former USSR. To the south of the lake belt rises the upland of Smaland and its small but fertile appendage, Skane. The lowlands were once submerged and so acquired a cover of fertile, silty soils.

Much of Sweden is composed of ancient rock; most ice erosion has resulted in generally poor sandy or stony soils. The best, most lime-rich soils are found in Skane, and this southernmost district is the leading agricultural region; it resembles Denmark in its physical endowments and development.

Because of maritime influences, particularly the warm North Atlantic Drift and the prevailing westerly airstreams, Sweden has higher temperatures than its northerly latitude would suggest. Stockholm averages –3°C (26°F) in February and 18°C (64°F) in July. As would be expected from its latitudinal extent, there is a wide divergence of climate between northern and southern Sweden: the north has a winter of more than seven months and a summer of less than three, while Skane in the south has a winter of about two months and a summer of more than four. The increasing shortness of summer northward is partly compensated for by comparatively high summer temperatures, the greater length of day, and the infrequency of summer cloud; the considerable cloud cover in winter reduces heat loss by radiation.

Annual rainfall averages 61 cm (24 in) and is heaviest in the southwest and along the frontier between Norrland and Norway; the average rainfall for Lapland is about 30 cm (12 in) a year. The maximum rainfall occurs in late summer, and the minimum in early spring. There is considerable snowfall, and in the north snow remains on the ground for about half the year. Ice conditions in the surrounding seas, especially the Gulf of Bothnia, often are severe in winter and seriously interfere with navigation.

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