Geography in Tasmania

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Tasmania is an odd part of the world in that, in very many ways, it has more in common with other continents than the one to which it belongs. Although part of the general Australian landarea, Tasmania was originally connected to South America, New Zealand and Antarctica during the period of the two super continents Laurasia and Gondwana. Tasmania's plants illustrate this ancient connection; the temperate rainforests resemble those of New Zealand or Patagonia more so than the other rainforests of Australia. Tasmania's mountains also exhibit far more evidence of glacial activity than the rest of Australia, and its climate is different from the rest of Australia due to its latitude and exposure to the Southern Ocean.


Tasmania is shaped like an arrowhead pointing to the South Pole. It is several hundred kilometres from North to South and a similar width along its North coast. The southern end does not taper to a single point, but is truncated to two Capes - South East and South West - which are less than 100 kilometres apart. The following paragraph is from "Tasmania at a Glance" published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics:

"The state of Tasmania is a group of islands that lie south of the south-eastern corner of the Australian mainland. The total area of the state, including its smaller islands, is 68,119 square kilometres, about 0.9% of the total area of Australia. Tasmania is separated from the mainland by a body of water known as Bass Strait, which averages 240 kilometres in width. The remaining coastline is bounded by the Southern Ocean on the south and west and the Tasman Sea on the east. At its greatest length, Tasmania spans some 296 kilometres from north to south; at its greatest width, it is 315 kilometres from the eastern coast to the west coast."

Although Tasmania is relatively low-lying (the highest point is ~1600 metres or ~5500 feet) it is Australia's most mountainous state, with no truly flat terrain. The major mountain ranges lie along the Western half of the state, starting at the coast in the South West and extending inland as one travels north. They are the remnants of an ancient range of volcanic mountains from the period of Gondwana, and are the source of a large portion of Tasmania's wealth in the form of mining. Although the eastern half of the state is generally lower and flatter, there are several significant mountain ranges in the East.

On account of its rugged topography and high rainfall, Tasmania has a great number of rivers, almost all of which have been dammed at some point to provide enough hydroelectricity for the entire state's needs. Almost all the major rivers begin in the Central highlands and flow to the coast. The Derwent River flows South East and reaches the coast at Hobart, the Esk, Tamar and Mersey rivers flow North to the coast at Launceston (somewhat inland) and Devonport. The Franklin and Gordon rivers flow west to meet the coast at Strahan - The Franklin is still undammed along its entire length.


Tasmania has a generally cooler and wetter climate than Australia, something that attracted settlers in the nineteenth century who found it more similar to England than the drier mainland. The temperature in winter can go as low as -10 °C in the highlands in winter, although the coastal areas rarely go below freezing. Summer temperatures can reach up to 35 °C, but in general will be in the range 20-30 °C. The mean daily maximums and minimums for Hobart are 17.6 and 9.2 °C respectively.

In general Tasmania receives its weather from the West. In winter there are a steady stream of cold fronts from the Southern Ocean, while in summer they are subdued by high pressure systems moving south from central Australia. Given the western orientation of both the weather and the topography, most of the precipitation falls across the West coast, where it promotes the extensive growth of temperate rainforests. The East of the state is much drier, and can even experience drought conditions in certain years. The vegetation is thus markedly different - dominated by eucalypts and hard-leaved plants.

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