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Area: 32,378 sq mi (83,858 sq km) / World Rank: 115 Location: Northern and Eastern Hemispheres, Central Europe, bordering the Slovak Republic and Hungary to the east; Slovenia and Italy to the south; Switzerland to the west and southwest; Liechtenstein to the west; Germany to the northwest; the Czech Republic to the north Coordinates: 47°20′N, 13°20′E Borders: 1,588 mi (2,562 km) / Czech Republic, 224 mi (362 km); Germany, 486 mi (784 km); Hungary,227 mi (366 km); Italy, 267 mi (430 km); Liechtenstein, 22 mi (35 km); Slovakia, 56 mi (91 km); Slovenia, 205 mi (330 km); Switzerland, 102 mi (164 km) Coastline: None; landlocked Territorial Seas: None Highest Point: Grossglockner, 12,461 ft (3,798 m) Lowest Point: Neusiedler See, 377 ft (115 m) Longest Distances: 356 mi (573 km) E-W / 183 mi (294km) N-S Longest River: Danube, 1,775 mi (2,857 km) Largest Lake: Neusiedler See, 124 sq mi (320 sq km) Natural Hazards: None Population: 8,150,835 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 85 Capital City: Vienna, northeastern Austria on the Danube Largest City: Vienna, 2,072,000 (2000)
Situated at the heart of Central Europe and bordering eight different countries, Austria has historically been a political, economic, and cultural crossroads. The Brenner Pass and the Danube River have provided crucial links between the Mediterranean and Balkan lands to the south and east and the Germanic countries to the north. For hundreds of years, the now small, landlocked, country of Austria was at the center of the great Habsburg Empire that ruled much of Europe until World War I.Austria’s topography is dominated by the Alpine mountains that extend eastward from Switzerland, covering the western two-thirds of the country. Austria’s twoother major geographical regions are the Bohemian highlands bordering the Czech Republic to the north and the eastern lowlands, which include the Vienna Basin, home to the nation’s capital city of the same name, located on the shores of the Danube, Europe’s second-longest river. Austria is located on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate.
Mountains More than three-fourths of Austria’s terrain is mountainous. The Alpine mountains spread across the western and southern parts of the country, with numerous ranges dividing into three major groups as they fan out across the land. The limestone peaks of the northern Alps begin in Switzerland and Germany and extend west into Austria, continuing all the way to the Vienna Woods in the east. They lie to the north of a longitudinal depression that follows the valleys of the Inn, Salzach, and Enns rivers in an eastward direction from the Arlberg Pass (5881 ft / 1792 m above sea level) and crosses the Schober Saddle to the Mur and Mürz river valleys, ending at the Semmering Pass (3232 ft / 985 m above sea level) and the Vienna Basin. Many of its peaks rise above 8,000 ft (2,400 m); the highest point in the range, the Zugspitz (9,721 ft; 2,963m), is located in Germany.
The central group of mountains is the largest and has the highest elevations, including the highest point in Austria, the Grossglockner (12,461 ft / 3,798 m). Many of its crystalline peaks top 10,000 ft (3,000 m). The major ranges of the central Alps include the Hohe Tauern and Niedere Tauern, and the Noric, Ötztal, Zillertal, Lechtal, and Kitzbühel Alps. The Pasterze, the largest of numerous glaciers found among the Austrian Alps, is also located in the central Alpine system, not far from the Grossglockner. It provides a venue for skiers as late as mid-June. The Brenner Pass (4497 ft / 1371 m above sea level) lies in the Ötztal Alps on the border with Italy. One of the largest and the lowest passes running through the Alps, it has been an important route for north-south travel through the mountains since ancient times.
CLIMATE AND VEGETATION Temperature Austria is in the Central European transitional climatic zone, and its climate varies by region. Atlantic maritime influences are felt in the northern and western provinces, where northwest winds from the North Atlantic moderate temperatures and bring moisture. Annual temperatures range between 20°F to 30°F (–7°C to –1°C) in winter and 65°F to 75°F (18°C to 24°C) in summer. Continental influences are stronger in the eastern provinces, which have less precipitation and a greater range of temperatures, with colder winters, hot, humid summers, and mild, cloudy weather in the spring and fall. Average temperatures in Vienna are 25°F to 34°F (–4°C to 1°C) in January and 59°F to 77°F (15°C to 25°C) inJuly. The mountain regions in the south and west have anAlpine climate, with warm but short summers and frequent storms. Winters are generally long with clear, sunny days. On the highest mountains, summertime temperatures often remain below the freezing point. In the fall and spring, a warm, dry southern wind called the föhn moderates temperatures in the Alpine regions; it can also bring fog, and contributes to ava- lanches by causing snow to melt suddenly and fall from high elevations.
NATURAL RESOURCES Austria’s most important natural resources are its forests and the potential for hydroelectric power from its numerous streams and steep mountain slopes. Strict conservation laws protect the nation’s forests, mandating replanting when trees are cut down to provide timber for paper and wood pulp production. Important mineral resources include lignite, iron ore, crude oil, magnesite, lead, and copper.