Mali is a landlocked nation in West Africa, located southwest of Algeria, extending south-west from the southern Sahara through the Sahel to the Sudanian savanna zone.
At about 1.2 million square kilometers, Mali is comparable in size to South Africa and is almost twice the size of the US state of Texas. Mali shares a total of 7,243 kilometers of land boundaries with seven bordering states: Algeria (1,376 kilometers) to the north and northeast, Niger (821 kilometers) to the east, Burkina Faso (1,000 kilometers) to the southeast, Côte d’Ivoire (532 kilometers) to the south, Guinea (858 kilometers) to the southwest, and Senegal (419 kilometers) and Mauritania (2,237 kilometers) to the west.
Mali's territory encompasses three natural zones: the southern cultivated Sudanese zone, central semiarid Sahelian zone, and northern arid Saharan zone. The terrain is primarily savanna in the south and flat to rolling plains or high plateau (200–500 meters in elevation) in the north. There are rugged hills in the northeast, with elevations of up to 1,000 meters. Desert or semi-desert covers about 65 percent of the country’s area. The Niger River creates a large and fertile inland delta as it arcs northeast through Mali from Guinea before turning south and eventually emptying into the Gulf of Guinea.
The Niger (with 1,693 kilometers in Mali) and Senegal are Mali’s two largest rivers. The Niger is generally described as Mali’s lifeblood, a source of food, drinking water, irrigation, and transportation.
The country's lowest point is on the Senegal River (23 m) and its highest point is Hombori Tondo (1,155 m).
Mali's climate ranges from subtropical in the south to arid in the north. The country is mostly dry, with 4–5 months of rainy season. In Bamako, at an elevation of 340 meters (1,115 ft) above sea level, temperatures generally range from 16 to 39 °C (60.8 to 102.2 °F). January is the coldest month, with temperatures ranging from 16 to 33 °C (60.8 to 91.4 °F), and April is the hottest month, with temperatures averaging 34 to 39 °C (93.2 to 102.2 °F). Annual precipitation in Bamako averages 1,120 millimeters (44.1 in). The driest months are December and January with zero rainfall. The wettest month is August, which averages 220 millimeters (8.7 in) of rainfall. Most of the country receives negligible rainfall, and droughts are a recurring problem. During dry seasons, a hot, dust-laden harmattan haze is also common. Flooding of the Niger River occurs regularly in the rainy season (approximately June/July–November/December).
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