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Paraíba - Geography
The state can be divided in three main morphologic regions: the littoraneous lowlands (about 200 km wide); the Borborema plateau, a mountain chain with average altitude of 800m; and the occidental plateau, continuation of the Borborema towards the west. The Borborema is a chain about 350 km long, which stretches from the north of Minas Gerais up to the south of Rio Grande do Norte; the chain physically separates the coast from the interior, and has influence on the climate and vegetation of the State.
From the coast to the border of Borborema, climate is tropical humid, with rains concentrated on the winter (March through August); average temperature is 24 degrees Celsius, and pluviosity ranges from 1,500 mm in the coast to 800 mm close to Borborema; because of altitude, some areas of Borborema are wetter, with pluviosity of up to 1,400 mm (the best agricultural areas of Paraíba are on the humid parts of Borborema).
Except for the area around Borborema, all the occidental plateau has a semi-arid climate (the region is referred to as sertão. Mean annual temperatures are higher (around 26 degrees Celsius); pluviosity levels are low, ranging from 600 mm to 300 mm. The rainy seasons, when exist, occur on autumn (March - June), but it´s common to see years without rain (March 19th, the day of São José, is a symbolic day for the locals: according to popular belief, if there is rain that day, the year will be wet, propicious to the plantations); a good part of Paraíba is located on the Polygon of Drought.
Three distinct kinds of vegetation cover Paraíba.
In the coastal lowlands, there was a predominance of tropical forest; much of the forest was devastated, firstly for the exploration of timber, then for cane farms and cattle pasture, and eventually for the urbanization.
The semi-arid is dominated by the caatinga, with a dispersed population of cactus, bushes and other specimes adapted to the dry climate.
The area between the coast and the sertão is called agreste, and the vegetation is a transition between the forests and the caatingas, with specimes of both systems.
The river Paraíba (not to be confused with Paraíba do Sul, in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro) was reference for the foundation of João Pessoa, capital of the State; other important rivers are Carimataú and Piranhas (which, in Rio Grande do Norte, is called Açu). There is a big variation in level and flow of the rivers, between the wet and dry seasons; many rivers become completely dry, when there´s no rain; dams (some modern, many rustic) are built along the larger rivers, forming reservoirs called açudes.
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