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Geography of Malaysia


Malaysia was created in 1963 through the merger of Malaya (independent in 1957) and the former British Singapore, both of which formed West Malaysia, and Sabah and Sarawak in North Borneo which comprise East Malaysia.  Singapore separated from the union in 1965.

The geography of Malaysia deals with the physical and human geography of Malaysia, a country located in Southeast Asia. There are two distinct parts to this country being Peninsular Malaysia to the west and East Malaysia to the east. Peninsular Malaysia is located south of Thailand, north of Singapore and east of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. East Malaysia is located on the island of Borneo and shares borders with Brunei and Indonesia.

Located near the equator, Malaysia's climate is categorised as equatorial, being hot and humid throughout the year. The average rainfall is 250 centimetres (98 in) a year and the average temperature is 27 °C (80.6 °F). The climates of the Peninsula and the East differ, as the climate on the peninsula is directly affected by wind from the mainland, as opposed to the more maritime weather of the East. Malaysia is exposed to the El Nino effect, which reduces rainfall in the dry season. Climate change is likely to have a significant effect on Malaysia, increasing sea levels and rainfall, increasing flooding risks and leading to large droughts.

Malaysia faces two monsoon winds seasons, the Southwest Monsoon from late May to September, and the Northeast Monsoon from November to March. The Northeast Monsoon brings in more rainfall compared to the Southwest Monsoon, originating in China and the north Pacific. The southwest monsoon originates from the deserts of Australia. March and October form transitions between the two monsoons.

Local climates are affected by the presence of mountain ranges throughout Malaysia, and climate can be divided into that of the highlands, the lowlands, and coastal regions. The coasts have a sunny climate, with temperatures ranging between 23 °C (73.4 °F) and 32 °C (89.6 °F), and rainfall ranging from 10 centimetres (4 in) to 30 centimetres (12 in) a month. The lowlands have a similar temperature, but follow a more distinctive rainfall pattern and show very high humidity levels. The highlands are cooler and wetter, and display a greater temperature variation. A large amount of cloud cover is present over the highlands, which have humidity levels that do not fall below 75%.

The highest temperature was recorded at Chuping, Perlis on 9 April 1998 at 40.1 °C (104.2 °F). The lowest temperature was recorded at Cameron Highlands on 1 February 1978 at 7.8 °C (46.0 °F). The highest rainfall recorded in a day was 608 mm (23.9 in) in Kota Bharu, Kelantan on 6 January 1967. The highest rainfall recorded in a year was 5,687 mm (223.9 in) at Sandakan, Sabah in 2006. Meanwhile, the lowest rainfall recorded in a year was 1,151 mm (45.3 in) at Tawau, Sabah in 1997. The wettest place in Malaysia is Kuching, Sarawak with an average rainfall of 4,128 mm (162.5 in) with 247 days of rain a year. The driest place in Malaysia is in Chuping, Perlis with average rainfall of only 1,746 mm (68.7 in) a year.

The total land area of Malaysia is 329,847 square kilometres (127,350 sq mi), the 67th largest country in the world in terms of area. It is the only country to contain land on both mainland Asia and the Malay archipelago.Peninsular Malaysia makes up 132,090 square kilometres (51,000 sq mi), or 39.7%, while East Malaysia covers 198,847 square kilometres (76,780 sq mi), or 60.3% of the total land of the country. From the total land area, 1,200 square kilometres (460 sq mi) or 0.37% is made up of water such as lakes, rivers, or other internal waters. Malaysia has a total coastline of 4,675 kilometres (2,905 mi), whereby Peninsular Malaysia has 2,068 kilometres (1,285 mi), while East Malaysia has 2,607 kilometres (1,620 mi) of coastline. Malaysia has the 29th longest coastline in the world. The two distinct parts of Malaysia, separated from each other by the South China Sea, share a largely similar landscape in that both West (Peninsula) and East Malaysia feature coastal plains rising to hills and mountains.

Peninsula Malaysia covers the southern half of the Malay Peninsula, and extends 740 kilometres (460 mi) from north to south, and its maximum width is 322 kilometres (200 mi). It is very mountainous, with more than half of it over 150 metres (492 ft) above sea level. About half of Peninsular Malaysia is covered by granite and other igneous rocks, a third more is covered by stratified rocks older than the granite, and the remainder is covered by alluvium. Harbours are only available on the peninsula's western side, and the most fertile land occurs when river valleys flow out to the sea. The coastal plains bordering the straits of Malacca are the most densely populated areas of Malaysia, and contains Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur.

East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo, has a coastline of 2,607 kilometres (1,620 mi). It is divided between coastal regions, hills and valleys, and a mountainous interior. There are only two major cities, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu. Much of southern Sarawak is coastal lowlands, which shifts to a series of plateaus going north, ending in the mountainous regions of Sabah.

The southernmost point of Malaysia is located in the district of Serian in Sarawak. Tanjung Piai on the southern tip of Johor is the southermost point in Peninsular, and thus of the whole of continental Eurasia. The easternmost point is found on the tip of Dent Peninsular in Lahad Datu district in Sabah. The northernmost point is found on the northern tip of Banggi Island. The westernmost point is found on the western tip of Pulau Langkawi in Kedah.

Political geography

Malaysia is divided into thirteen states and three Federal Territories. Eleven states and two Federal Territories are found in Peninsular Malaysia. While two states and one Federal Territory are found in East Malaysia. The states are further divided into administrative districts. In Sabah and Sarawak, they are first divided into divisions, then further divided into districts. There are separate subdivisions for electoral districts for polling purposes.

International borders between Malaysia and Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Brunei are defined mostly by geological features such as the Perlis River and Golok River between Malaysia and Thailand; Straits of Johor between Malaysia and Singapore; and Pagalayan Canal between Malaysia and Brunei. However, borders that extends to the seas are defined by agreements such as Straits Settlement and Johore Territorial Waters Agreement of 1927 which defines Malaysia and Singapore water borders.

Malaysia's land borders are well established. The border with Thailand was established in 1909 when Siam ceded Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and Terengganu to the British. Maritime border disputes between Brunei and Malaysia and a Bruneian claim on Limbang, Sarawak were resolved in an exchange of letters between the two countries on 16 March 2009 after 20 years of negotiations. Malaysia and Indonesia have some overlapping maritime claims, notably in the area around Sabah. An ongoing series of meetings to resolve these claims has produced 16 border agreements (to September 2010). Malaysia and Singapore also have disputes concerning some maritime borders. The Philippines has a dormant claim to the Malaysian state of Sabah. Malaysia is also involved in a complex dispute, involving Vietnam, Brunei, the People's Republic of China, the Philippines, and the Republic of China (Taiwan), concerning the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

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