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São Paulo - Geography

Map of São Paulo
The geographic profile of the State of São Paulo can be divided in three zones (one of them sub-divided in anothre three): a narrow coastal zone; an abrupt mountain chain (Serra do Mar) which clearly separates the coast from the interior lands; the interior plateau, which spans from Serra do Mar until the western border of the state (actually, Serra do Mar is just the abrupt border of the plateau).
At Serra do Mar, altitudes vary between 800 and 1100 meters; there is an abrupt fall towards the coast and a light slope towards the west. The plateau has three distinct sections: the area surrounding Serra do Mar has a basement of granitic rocks; a profound valley (about 200 m deep), called Depressão Interior, also running from south-west to north-east, separating two neighbour plateaus; the occidental plateau (Planalto Ocidental), which covers about half of the State, from the Depression to the western boundaries.

Climate. The Tropic of Capricorn passes right over the city of São Paulo; climate of the State is tropical, with some variations caused by altitude.
Along the coastline, average temperature is 20 degrees, and pluviosity is over 2,000 mm, with rains well distributed along the year. The western plateau has the same average temperature, but pluviosity is between 1,000 and 1,250 mm. In the areas of higher altitude (Serra do Mar and surroundings, which includes the city of São Paulo), temperature is slightly lower (yearly average of 18 degrees), and pluviosity is between 1,250 and 2,000 mm.
Check out the climate in the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Soil and Vegetation. Before the Portuguese arrived, the natural forest covered about 82% of the State; today, little is left (the largest portion of the original forest is today in the steepest parts of Serra do Mar and Serra da Mantiqueira).
The area was devastated first for exploration of timber, then for plantations and cattle raising, and then for the opening of cities and urban areas.
The State of São Paulo has an advantage over all other States: the plateau areas which cover most of the State are the largest extension of fertile land in Brazil; this fact explains why the culture of coffee thrived the most in São Paulo, and was followed by several other cultures. The soils lacked mineral nutrients, but the forest which covered the land for centuries made it rich in organic material.

Rivers Most rivers of São Paulo are tributaries of the Paraná river, which separates São Paulo from Mato Grosso. Being a region of plateaus, the rivers have a good hydroelectric potential; there are plenty of hydroelectricity plants in the State, the largest of them in the rivers Paraná and Grande. Also because of plateaus, navigability of the rivers is difficult; the Tiete, which begins at Serra do Mar and ends at the river Paraná, cutting through almost the entire State, has been made navigable by the construction of several dams along its course.
Two important rivers flow to the ocean. The Ribeira do Iguape, in the south, brings fertility to an otherwise very poor area. The Paraíba do Sul flows into Rio de Janeiro before reaching the sea; the areas around this river were the first to receive coffee, because of the combination of: proximity with Rio, fertile soils and navigability of the river.
Tietê and Paraíba do Sul, the two rivers with more cities on their banks, are highly poluted. The Tietê is depositary of large amounts of raw sewage, while the Paraíba is particularly affected by industrial wastings.

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