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Physical Setting

Liberia's territory of 43,000 square miles lies a few degrees north of the equator on the great western bulge of Africa. At the country's southeastern extremity, the shoreline of West Africa turns eastward and faces the Gulf of Guinea. From that point to the western border with Sierra Leone, the coast stretches some 370 miles along the Atlantic Ocean. Liberia ascends the seaward slopes of the Guinea Highlands to a very irregular border with Guinea. From the sea to that border, the width of the country varies from about 100 to 200 miles.

Behind a low coastal plain much of the country consists of rolling plateaus and low?lying hills rising to the higher elevations of 600 to 1,000 feet that constitute almost half of Liberia's terrain. In the far northwest and north central portions of the territory are the outliers of the Guinea Highlands. The land is well watered, and a number of narrow, roughly parallel river basins run to the sea at right angles to the northwest?southwest trend of the belts of relief (see fig. 3). Most of the country lies in the heaviest rainfall zone in West Africa. Precipitation, however, decreases progressively inland, and rainfall belts, like relief belts, run roughly parallel to the coast. There is normally some rain during every month of the year, but most of the country is characterized by wet and dry seasons. The climate is warm and humid, and the annual temperature variation is quite small.

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