Brazil is a huge country encompassing nearly half of South America and is the fifth largest country in the world. Around nine-tenths of the country is situated between the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. Bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, Brazil has 12,000km of borders with Spanish speaking countries (all south American countries except for Chili and Equador). The relief is dominated by the Brazilian Plateau, which unfolds after the mountain ranges that closely follow the coastline from Porto Alegre in the South to Natal in the Northeast. The major lowland areas are the Pantanal, the Amazonian plains and the coastal region. The highest point of the country is “Pico de Neblina” 3,014m high, located in the extreme North of the Amazon region.
Despite of the enormous area of Brazil it’s one of the most urbanized countries of the world. Of the ten biggest metropolises in the world two of them are situated in Brazil; São Paulo (more than 17 million people) and Rio de Janeiro (more than 7 million). Nearly the whole of the immense Brazilian territory is inaccessible, as well as extremely abundant in mineral resources. Brazil has the largest tropical forest and oxygen reserve in the world, which is the Amazon jungle and more than 8.000 kilometers of coastline with many unspoilt beaches and tropical islands.
The climate varies according to latitude and altitude. The seasons are the exact reverse of those in Europe and the US. Brazil is marked by highly varied climates, ranging from the humidity of the Amazon region, the dry heat of the Northeastern region and the permanently pleasant warm weather of most of the costal area, to cool evening temperatures in many parts of the plateau and a temperate climate in the South, where snow and frost can occur in the winter months.
Although 90 percent of the country is within the tropical zone, more than 60 percent of the population live in areas where altitude, sea winds, or cold polar fronts moderate the temperature. There are five climatic regions in Brazil: equatorial, tropical, semi-arid, highland tropical, and subtropical. Plateau cities such as São Paulo, Brasília, and Belo Horizonte have very mild climates averaging 19°C (66°F). Rio deJaneiro, Recife, and Salvador on the coast have warm climates balanced by the constancy of the Trade Winds. In the southern Brazilian cities of Porto Alegre and Curitiba, the subtropical climate is similar to parts of the U.S. and Europe with frosts occurring with some frequency. In this region temperatures in winter can fall below zero degrees.
Despite the popular image of the Amazon as a region of blistering heat, temperatures of more than 32°C (90°F) are rarely experienced there. In fact, the annual average temperature in the Amazon region is in the range of 22-26°C (72-79°F), with only a very small seasonal variation between the warmest and the coldest months. The hottest part of Brazil is the northeast where, during the dry season, between May and November, temperatures of more than 38°C (100 °F) are recorded frequently. The northeast has greater seasonal variation in temperatures than the Amazon region has. Along the Atlantic coast from Recife to Rio de Janeiro, mean temperatures range from 23 to 27°C (73°F-81°F). Inland, on higher ground, temperatures are lower, ranging from 18 to 21°C (64°F-70°F). South of Rio, the seasons are more noticeable and the annual range of temperature greater. The average temperature for this part of the country ranges between 17 to 19°C (63°F-66°F).
The time in most of Brazil is three hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. This is true for Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Brasilía, Bahia, Minas Gerais, etc. Amazonas, Roraima, Rondônia, Pará, Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul are a further one hour behind Brazilian standard time while Acre is two hours behind. Fernando de Noronha and other oceanic islands (Trindade, Martin Vaz, etc.) are one hour in front.
In 1985 Brazil introduced “summer time” to help save energy and this measure has been repeated ever since. Brazilian summer time comes into effect in October and ends in early February. During the period of daylight saving time, Brazil’s clocks go forward one hour in most of the Brazilian southeast. This, at a time when most of the Northern Hemisphere, such as for example the United Kingdom, are putting their clocks back one hour and coming off summer time. Therefore, the time difference swing is two hours and not just one.
For example, when Brazil is on normal time and the UK is on summer time, the time difference between Rio and London will be four hours, but drops to just two hours when Brazil goes on summer time and the UK comes off.
Brazil will put its clocks forward one hour on 18 October to begin summer time. The clocks will go back one hour on 28 February 2004, the weekend after Carnival.