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Geography & Climate

Cyprus has an intense Mediterranean climate with the typical seasonal rhythm strongly marked in respect of temperature, rainfall and weather generally. Hot, dry summers from mid-May to mid-September and rainy, rather changeable winters from November to mid-March are separated by short autumn and spring seasons.

In summer the island is mainly under the influence of a shallow trough of low pressure extending from the great continental depression centered over southwest Asia. It is a season of high temperatures with almost cloudless skies. In winter Cyprus is near the track of fairly frequent small depressions which cross the Mediterranean Sea from west to east between the continental anticyclone of Eurasia and the generally low pressure belt of North Africa.

These depressions give periods of disturbed weather usually lasting for a day or so and produce most of the annual precipitation, the average rainfall from December to February being about 60% of the average annual total precipitation for the island as a whole, which is 500 mm. Precipitation increases from 450 millimetres up the south-western windward slopes to nearly 1.100 millimetres at the top of the Troodos massif. On the leeward slopes amounts decrease steadily northwards and eastwards to between 300 and 400 millimetres in the central plain and the flat south-eastern parts of the island.

The narrow ridge of the Kyrenia range, stretching 160 kms from west to east along the extreme north of the island produces a relatively small increase in rainfall of around 550 millimetres along its ridge at an elevation of 1.000 metres. Statistical analysis of rainfall in Cyprus reveals a decreasing trend of rainfall amounts in the last 30 years. Rainfall in the warmer months contributes little or nothing to water resources and agriculture. Autumn and winter rainfall, on which agriculture and water supply generally depend, is somewhat variable from year to year. Snow occurs rarely in the lowland and on the Northern Range but falls every winter on ground about 1.000 metres usually occurring by the first week in December and ending by the middle of April. Although snow cover is not continuous, during the coldest months it may lie to considerable depths for several weeks especially on the northern slopes of Troodos.

Temperatures are high in summer and the mean daily temperature in July and August ranges between 29 degrees Celsius on the central plain to 22 degrees Celsius on the Troodos mountains, while the average maximum temperature for these months ranges between 36 degrees Celsius and 27 degrees Celsius respectively. Winters are mild with a mean January temperature of 10 degrees Celsius on the central plain and 3 degrees Celsius on the higher parts of the Troodos mountains and with an average minimum temperature of 5 degrees Celsius and 0 degrees Celsius respectively.

Relative humidity of the air is on average between 60% and 80% in winter and between 40% and 60% in summer with even lower values over inland areas around midday. Fog is infrequent and visibility is generally very good. Sunshine is abundant during the whole year and particularly from April to September when the average duration of bright sunshine exceeds 11 hours per day.

Winds are generally light to moderate and variable in direction. Strong winds may occur sometimes, but gales are infrequent over Cyprus and are mainly confined to exposed coastal areas as well as areas at high elevation.

Land & Crops

The coastline is indented and rocky in the north with long, sandy beaches in numerous coves in the south. The northern coastal plain, covered with olive and carob trees, is backed by a steep, narrow mountain range of limestone, the Northern or Pentadactylos Range, rising to a height of 1.024 meters.

In the south-west the extensive mountain massif of Troodos, covered with pine, dwarf oak, cypress and cedar, culminates in the peak of Mount Olympus, 1.952 metres above sea level. Between the two ranges lies the fertile plain of Messaoria to the east and the still more fertile irrigated basin of Morphou to the west. The total area of arable land is about 430.000 hectares or 46,8% of the whole island. The total forest land is 1.735 square kms. i.e. 18,74% of the total area of the island. Cyprus has two salt lakes.

The principal crops in the lowlands are cereals (wheat and barley), vegetables, potatoes and citrus. The olive tree grows everywhere, but flourishes particularly on the sea-facing slopes. Vineyards occupy a large area on the southern and western slopes of the Troodos mountains. Deciduous fruit trees are grown in the fertile mountain valleys. The most valuable export crops are potatoes, citrus, fruits, vegetables and table grapes. Sheep and goats are mainly reared in sheds or tethered, but the semi-nomadic traditional system of grazing is still exercised.

Area and Population

Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean with an area of 9.251 sq. kilometers. It has a maximum length of 240 kms from east to west and a maximum width of 100 kms from north to south. It is situated 380 kms north of Egypt, 105 kms west of Syria and 75 kms south of Turkey.

The Greek mainland is some 800 kms to the west. The nearest Greek islands are Rhodes and Carpathos, 380 kms to the west.

Cyprus' population in July 2004 was 775,927. Population distribution by ethnic group is 85% Greek Cypriots including Maronites, Armenians and Latins and 12% Turkish Cypriots. Foreigners residing in Cyprus account for 3% of the population.

Prior to the Turkish invasion in 1974 the two communities lived together in roughly the same proportions (4 Greeks: 1 Turk) in all the six administrative districts. The capital of the island is Nicosia with a population of 195.300 in the sector controlled by the Cyprus government. It is the only divided capital in Europe.

It is situated roughly in the center of the island and is the seat of government as well as the main business center.

The second largest town is Limassol on the south coast, with a population of around 155.500. After 1974 it has become the island?s chief port, an industrial center and an important tourist resort.

Larnaca, in the south-coast of the island, has a population of 68.800 and is the country's second commercial port and an important tourist resort. To the north of the town one can find the country's oil refinery while to the south, the Larnaca International Airport.

Finally, Paphos, on the south-west coast, with a population of around 39.500, is a fast-developing tourist resort, home to the island?s second international airport and an attractive fishing harbor.

The towns of Famagusta, Kyrenia and Morphou have been under Turkish occupation since the Turkish invasion of 1974. The original Greek Cypriot inhabitants have been forced to flee to the government-controlled area. In their place the Turkish authorities have imported thousands of settlers from Anatolia.

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