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The transition from Asia to Europe, and vice versa, is not a clear one, and for this reason Europe and Asia are often said to be one continent called "Eurasia". The boundary between Europe and Asia is based on geographical features.

Europe[edit | edit source]

Europe is not among the largest of the continents, but it has a greatly varied coastline that gives it countless inlets, fjords, seas, and bays. Many geographical features criss-cross this landmass's surface, from the Alps to the Danube, the Caucasus Mountains, and the Urals of Russia. Unlike the mountain ranges of North America, the mountain ranges of Europe do not follow predictable paths across the continent, but instead occupy smaller regions of the continent. South and west of mainland Europe, there are some islands; those to the south of Europe are in the Mediterranean Sea and those to the north- and south-west are either in the Atlantic Ocean itself or on ocean's boundaries with smaller bodies of water, such as the North Sea.

At the southwestern tip of the European mainland is the Iberian Peninsula, which extends toward the northwestern tip of Africa, and specifically the country of Morocco. A high mountain range, the Pyrenees, marks the beginning of the Iberian Peninsula; and the Iberian Peninsula ends at Gibraltar, a short, rocky peninsula extending south toward Africa known as the "Rock of Gibraltar." The Iberian Peninsula is roughly square, though there are islands, the Balearic Islands, off the eastern coast of Spain and therefore east of the Iberian Peninsula. Because the Iberian Peninsula does not have a particularly wet climate, the Iberian Peninsula lacks long, easily navigable rivers found to the east and northeast in other parts of the continent. Additionally, the geography and shape of the peninsula does not encourage extremely long rivers, which need large inland expanses, and typically mountain ranges with high precipitation, which cause rivers following spring to summer rain or snow-melt from the winter. The Iberian Peninsula in contrast has a mostly dry climate, with exceptions limited to relatively small regions; and in some parts of the peninsula there is a dry-summer Mediterranean climate.

Northeast of the Iberian Peninsula is France and the beginning of the Northern European Plain, the heart of the European continent as we know it. This region is drained by notable rivers like the Rhine which flow north from the Alps Mountains. (The Alps mark the beginning of the Italian Peninsula.) The highest mountain in the Alps is Mount Blanc, which is nearly 16,000 feet (4,900 m) high.[1]

Map of the seas surrounding the Italian Peninsula

Stretching across Northern Europe to Russia is relatively flat land. The southern part of Europe is much more mountainous than the north, and this is especially true in Greece and its neighbours. East of Greece, two narrow channels, the Bosporus and Dardanelles, separate Europe from Asia. To the north of these channels is the Black Sea, a large sea with two inlets on its northern side; and the Crimea peninsula lies between them. The land north of Crimea is flat, although there are major rivers that flow through this part of Eastern Europe to the Black Sea.

To the west, however, flowing into the Black Sea, is a river of great importance: the Danube River. This river is one of Europe's longest rivers, and it flows through many countries in central to southeastern Europe.

North of the Danube River, and north of the Plain, is the Baltic Sea, which cuts into Europe along a winding path which goes north of Jutland and then across toward Russia; the region of Europe north of the Baltic Sea is Scandinavia. Scandinavia has some fairly high mountains but also contains flatter regions. East of Scandinavia is Russia; this country is partially in Europe and partially in Asia, and the Ural Mountains are considered to be the dividing line here between the two continents.

Flowing south from Eastern Europe is the Volga River, which drains into the Caspian Sea, the largest lake in the world; the Caspian Sea is at the point where Asia and Europe meet. There are a few, small countries west of the Caspian Sea that are considered to be in Europe. At the northern end of this group of countries is the Caucasus Mountain Range, Europe's highest mountain range. The highest peak in this range, in turn, is Mount Elbrus.

South of Europe is the large Mediterranean Sea, which separates Europe from Africa. There are quite a few islands in the Mediterranean Sea and the neighbouring seas, including Sicily, Crete, and Cyprus. The Mediterranean is longer than it is wide, and due to peninsulas like the Iberian Peninsula and the Italian Peninsula, there are some smaller seas that cut into sides of the Mediterranean. These seas, like the Mediterranean, have long names that are hard to spell: the one between the Italian and Iberian Peninsulas is called the Tyrrhenian Sea, and the one between Italy and Croatia is the Adriatic Sea.

The islands of Britain and Ireland are also worth giving a close view. Britain's longest river is the Severn[2], but another long river, the Thames, takes a west-east path across the country and forms a substantial estuary near London; however, in fact there are many, many rivers that go across Britain. However, there are no high mountains, only small mountains; the highest of these is Ben Nevis. Ireland is similar in geography to Britain, but is even lower-lying. Ireland's longest river is the Shannon. Both Britain and Ireland have large regions filled with small hills and fields, providing opportunities for various forms of agriculture.

Britain's shape is rather unusual and, therefore, recognizable; it includes two peninsulas at the southern end, one extending west (to Cornwall and eventually Land's End) and the other going east (near London). Farther north, but still on the southern side of the island, are two more peninsulas, which go west and east respectively; the western of these two peninsulas is the location of Wales and the eastern one is the location of Norfolk and Suffolk. Even farther north, on the eastern side, is The Wash, a tidal bay. In Scotland, a notable geographical feature along the coastline is the Firth of Forth.

Climate[edit | edit source]

Europe's climates trend toward cool, wet, and therefore temperate in the north to Mediterranean climates along the southern Mediterranean coastline. A Mediterranean climate features hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters.

Northwestern Europe is particularly temperate due to the influence of the Gulf Stream, which moderates temperatures, especially in winter. The climate becomes increasingly continental to the east, and the influence of the Gulf Stream decreases. Due to the Gulf Stream's influence, however, the extreme cold the polar vortex causes in North America's winter is avoided, and winters in most of Europe are comparatively mild, though some regions to the east can experience extreme cold.

Quiz[edit | edit source]

Complete the Europe quiz.

Asia[edit | edit source]

Asia is a large landmass that does not have an easily recognizable shape. Therefore in part due to its loosely defined "boundary" with Europe, Asia is known for its cultural regions, such as the "Indian Subcontinent," "the Orient" or "Far East," and "Middle East" — although not all of these terms remain in common usage, and of course, on a sphere there cannot be an "east" and "west" except in relative terms.

The west, particularly the southwest, is desert, with a mixture of relatively flat desert terrain (such as the Empty Quarter) and extremely mountainous terrain (including Mt. Ararat). Meanwhile the southern and eastern portions of the continent, which are temperate to tropical, contain the two countries with by far the world's largest population: China and India.

Asia's sheer size extends the landmass into a number of varying biomes. The continent extends north past the Arctic Circle in Siberia, a region of Russia with some of the world's coldest winter temperatures, although due to warm summers, Siberia has temperate forests that manage to survive the cold winters. This northern region of Asia is largely uninhabited, with many long rivers, one of the deepest lakes in the world, and some mountain ranges and even volcanoes, which are found on the eastern Kamchatka Peninsula. Going east the climate becomes increasingly cold and harsh during winter, with some of the coldest Northern Hemisphere temperatures recorded in the mountains of far eastern Russia.

The transition from Siberia to Central Asia, the region to the south(west), is drier, and deserts and near-deserts dominate, and vegetation that is present is limited, particularly at low elevations. (The Fergana Valley is an exception.)

The water that exists is salty and, in some cases, disappearing; the once large Aral Sea is now mostly an extension of the adjacent desert.

On the eastern side of Central Asia are mountains, which are located around the boundary with China and the Far East. Beyond these peaks, farther east again, is the high-lying Tibetan Plateau and the Taklimakan, a lower-lying dry region. East again is the core of China, which is wetter; rivers like the Yangtze drain this land and the mountains to the west. Along China's coastline, there is a varied coast that results in quite a few seas. The best-known peninsula in this region is probably the Korean Peninsula. Additionally, islands, like the islands that make up Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines to the south, exist off the east coast of China.

South of China but east of India is Indo-China, a more tropical region where the Mekong River flows out to the ocean. To the west, in India and Pakistan, are some large rivers that drain from the Himalayas, like the Ganges. To the north, Himalayas is a mountain range that includes the world's tallest mountain, Mount Everest, and other mountains that are similar in height, like K2 and Lhotse. (Mount Everest is 29,000 feet (8,800 m) above sea level.) Like the Sierra Nevada in California, the Himalayas gradually ("gradually", in relative terms) climb on one side and drop steeply on the other, into the Tibetan Plateau. The Indian Peninsula itself has some mountains, in particular in the southwest of the peninsula, but these mountains are not nearly as high as the Himalayas.

If you go west across India, you will reach drier land, followed by mountains. These mountains are in Iran, south of the Caspian Sea, near the border of Europe and Asia. To the southwest of these mountains is a flatter valley which is (currently) dry, but once was an important part of the Fertile Crescent. In a historical context, this land is sometimes called Mesopotamia, and it is the location of two important rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. Now, it is the location of the country of Iraq.

To the southwest is a large area of dry desert which, however, has a lot of oil. This is the Arabian Peninsula; its southern end is mountainous and lush in some regions, but mostly, the peninsula is low-lying, dry desert. The Arabian Peninsula extends southeast between Africa and India, creating a large sea between India and the Arabian Peninsula. While, as stated earlier in this paragraph, the Arabian Peninsula is mostly flat, there are exceptions, like Khasab (see Wikivoyage: Khasab and Wikipedia: Khasab for more detailed information). The shape of the Arabian Peninsula is somewhat rectangular, although at its south (especially southeast) tip it curves north to the Persian Gulf, an important body of water that separates the Arabian Peninsula from what is now Iran to the northeast.

To the northwest of the Arabian Peninsula is a more compact region where Lebanon is located; this region is wetter than the lands to the east. In Israel/Palestine, there are two lakes, called the Sea of Galilee (to the north) and the Dead Sea (to the south), which are connected by the Jordan River along the boundary of Israel and Jordan. South of Israel is the Sinai Peninsula, which is somewhat mountainous but also dry. To the north of Israel is Turkey, which extends out to Europe but is separated from Europe by the Bosporus and the Dardanelles.

Quiz[edit | edit source]

Complete the Asia quiz.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]