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Geography of Réunion


The island is 63 km long; 45 km wide; and covers 2,512 km². The island has a coastline of 207 km. The maritime claims of Réunion include an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles, and a territorial sea of 12 nautical miles (22 km). It is similar to the island Hawaii insofar as both are located above hotspots in the Earth's crust. The terrain is mostly rugged and mountainous, with fertile lowlands along the coast.

The Piton de la Fournaise, a shield volcano on the eastern end of Réunion Island, rises more than 2,631 m above sea level and is sometimes called a sister to Hawaiian volcanoes because of the similarity of climate and volcanic nature. It has erupted more than 100 times since 1640 and is under constant monitoring. It most recently erupted on 2 January 2010. Before that, the most noticeable was during April 2007, when the lava flow was estimated at 3,000,000 cu m per day. The Piton de la Fournaise is created by a hotspot volcano, which also created the Piton des Neiges and the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues.

The Piton des Neiges volcano, the highest point on the island at 3,070 m above sea level, is north west of the Piton de la Fournaise. Collapsed calderas and canyons are south west of the mountain. Like Kohala on the Big Island of Hawaii, the Piton des Neiges is extinct. Despite its name, snow (neige) practically never falls on the summit.

The slopes of both volcanoes are heavily forested. Cultivated land and cities like the capital city of Saint-Denis are concentrated on the surrounding coastal lowlands.

Réunion also has three calderas: the Cirque de Salazie, the Cirque de Cilaos and the Cirque de Mafate. The last is accessible only by foot or helicopter.

The mean annual temperature is 23°C (73°F) at sea level, but the climate, generally tropical, varies with orientation and altitude. The east coast receives almost daily precipitation, totalling some 350 cm annually, but on the north coast, annual rainfall is only about half that. Cyclones, which threaten from December to April, have devastated Réunion several times. The tropical cyclone monitoring centre at Saint-Denis serves the entire Indian Ocean area.


Southern Africa, island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar

Geographic coordinates:
21 06 S, 55 36 E

Map references:
Africa and Indian Ocean

total: 2,517 sq km
land: 2,507 sq km
water: 10 sq km

Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Rhode Island

Land boundaries:
0 km

207 km

Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

tropical, but temperature moderates with elevation; cool and dry (May to November), hot and rainy (November to April)

mostly rugged and mountainous; fertile lowlands along coast

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
highest point: Piton des Neiges 3,069 m

Natural resources:
fish, arable land, hydropower

Land use:
arable land: 13.94%
permanent crops: 1.59%
other: 84.47% (2005)

Irrigated land:
120 sq km (2003)

Natural hazards:
periodic, devastating cyclones (December to April); Piton de la Fournaise on the southeastern coast is an active volcano

Environment - current issues:

Geography - note:
this mountainous, volcanic island has an active volcano, Piton de la Fournaise; there is a tropical cyclone centre at Saint-Denis, which is the monitoring station for the whole of the Indian Ocean





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