Argentina, officially the Argentine Republic (Spanish: República Argentina, Spanish pronunciation: [reˈpuβlika aɾxenˈtina]), is a country in South America, constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city. It is the second largest country in South America and eighth in the world by land area and the largest among Spanish-speaking nations, though Mexico, Colombia and Spain are more populous. Its continental area is 2,766,890 km² (1,068,302 sq mi), between the Andes mountain range in the west and the southern Atlantic Ocean in the east and south. Argentina borders Paraguay and Bolivia to the north, Brazil and Uruguay to the northeast, and Chile to the west and south. Argentina also claimed 969,464 km² (374,312 sq mi) of Antarctica, known as Argentine Antarctica, overlapping other claims made by Chile (Chilean Antarctic Territory) and the United Kingdom (British Antarctic Territory); all such claims have been suspended by the Antarctic Treaty of 1961.
The total surface area of Argentina (not including the Antarctic claim) is 2,766,891 km², of which 2,736,691 km² is land and 30,200 km² (1.1%) is water.
Argentina is about 3,900 km (about 2,500 mi) long from north to south, and 1,400 km (about 870 mi) from east to west (maximum values). It can roughly be divided into four parts: the fertile plains of the Pampas in the center of the country, the source of Argentina's agricultural wealth; the flat to rolling, oil-rich plateau of Patagonia in the southern half down to Tierra del Fuego; the subtropical flats of the Gran Chaco in the north, and the rugged Andes mountain range along the western border with Chile.
The highest point above sea level in Argentina is located in Mendoza. Cerro Aconcagua, at 6,962 meters (22,834 ft). It is the highest mountain in the Americas, the Southern, and Western Hemisphere. The lowest point is Laguna del Carbón in Santa Cruz, −105 meters (−344 ft) below sea level. This is also the lowest point on the South American continent. The geographic center of the country is located in south-central La Pampa Province.
Argentina's easternmost continental point is northeast of the town of Bernardo de Irigoyen, Misiones (26°15′S 53°38′W), the westernmost in the Mariano Moreno Range in Santa Cruz (49°33′S 73°35′W). The northernmost point is located at the confluence of the Grande de San Juan and Mojinete rivers, Jujuy (21°46′S 66°13′W), and the southernmost is Cape San Pío in Tierra del Fuego (55°03′S 66°31′W).
The country has a territorial claim over a portion of Antarctica (unrecognized by any other country), where, from 1904, it has maintained a constant presence.
Political map of Argentina showing the area it controls. The Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) are controlled by the United Kingdom but are claimed by Argentina.
The country is traditionally divided into several major geographically distinct regions:
The plains west and south from Buenos Aires. Called the Humid Pampa, they cover most of the provinces of Buenos Aires and Córdoba and large portions of the provinces of Santa Fe and La Pampa. The western part of La Pampa and the province San Luis are also mostly plains (the Dry Pampa); but they are drier and used mainly for grazing. The Sierra de Córdoba in the homonymous province (extending into San Luis) is the most important geographical feature of the pampas.
The Gran Chaco region in the north of the country is seasonal dry/wet, mainly cotton growing and livestock raising. It covers the provinces of Chaco and Formosa. It is dotted with subtropical forests, scrubland, and some wetlands, home to a large number of plant and animal species. The province of Santiago del Estero lies in the drier region of the Gran Chaco.
The land between the Paraná and Uruguay rivers is called Mesopotamia, and it is shared by the provinces of Corrientes and Entre Ríos. It features flatland apt for grazing and plant growing, and the Iberá Wetlands in central Corrientes. Misiones Province is more tropical and belongs within the Brazilian Highlands geographic feature. It features subtropical rainforests and the Iguazú Falls.
The steppes of Patagonia, in the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut and Santa Cruz, are of tertiary origin. Most of the region is semiarid in the north to cold and arid in the far south, but forests grow in its western fringes which are dotted with several large lakes. Tierra del Fuego is cool and wet, moderated by oceanic influences. Northern Patagonia (Río Negro, south of the homonymous river, and Neuquén) can also be referred as the Comahue region.
West-central Argentina is dominated by the imposing Andes Mountains. To their east is the arid region known as Cuyo. Melting waters from high in the mountains form the backbone of irrigated lowland oasis, at the center of a rich fruit and wine growing region in Mendoza and San Juan provinces. Further north the region gets hotter and drier with more geographical accidents in La Rioja Province. The region's easternmost border is marked by the Sierras Pampeanas, a series of three low mountain ranges that spread from north to south in the northern half of the province of San Luis.
NOA or Northwest
This region is the highest in average elevation. Parallel mountain ranges, several of which have peaks higher than 20,000 feet (6,000 m), dominate the area. These ranges grow wider in geographic extent towards the north. They are cut by fertile river valleys, the most important being the Calchaquí Valleys in the provinces of Catamarca, Tucumán, and Salta. Farther north Jujuy Province near Bolivia lies mainly within the Altiplano plateau of the Central Andes. The Tropic of Capricorn goes through the far north of the region.
Because of longitudinal and elevation amplitudes, Argentina is subject to a variety of climates. As a rule, the climate is predominantly temperate with extremes ranging from subtropical in the north to subpolar in the far south. The north of the country is characterized by very hot, humid summers with mild drier winters, and is subject to periodic droughts. Central Argentina has hot summers with thunderstorms (western Argentina produces some of the world's largest hail), and cool winters. The southern regions have warm summers and cold winters with heavy snowfall, especially in mountainous zones. Higher elevations at all latitudes experience cooler conditions.
The hottest and coldest temperature extremes recorded in South America have occurred in Argentina. A record high temperature of 49.1 °C (120.4 °F), was recorded at Villa de María, Córdoba, on 2 January 1920. The lowest temperature recorded was −39 °C (−38.2 °F) at Valle de los Patos Superior, San Juan, on 17 July 1972.
Major wind currents in Argentina include the cool Pampero Winds blowing on the flat plains of Patagonia and the Pampas; following the cold front, warm currents blow from the north in middle and late winter, creating mild conditions. The Zonda, a hot dry wind, affects west-central Argentina. Squeezed of all moisture during the 6,000 meter descent from the Andes, Zonda winds can blow for hours with gusts up to 120 km/h, fueling wildfires and causing damage; when the Zonda blows (June-November), snowstorms and blizzard (viento blanco) conditions usually affect the higher elevations.
The Sudestada ("southeasterlies") could be considered similar to the Nor'easter, though snowfall is rarely involved (but is not unprecedented). Both are associated with a deep winter low pressure system. The sudestada usually moderates cold temperatures but brings very heavy rains, rough seas and coastal flooding. It is most common in late autumn and winter along the coasts of central Argentina and in the Río de la Plata estuary.
The southern regions, particularly the far south, experience long periods of daylight from November to February (up to nineteen hours) and extended nights from May to August. All of Argentina uses UTC-3 time zone. The country does observe daylight saving time occasionally.