St. Kitts and Nevis - Geography

St. Kitts and Nevis - Geography

The islands of St. Kitts and Nevis are part of the Leeward Islands group of the Lesser Antilles (see fig. 1). They are located about 113 kilometers south of Anguilla and 300 kilometers southeast of Puerto Rico. A narrow strait 3.2 kilometers wide separates the two islands. Total land area is 269 square kilometers, which makes the nation about the size of San Antonio, Texas.

Geologically, St. Kitts and Nevis are hilly or mountainous and volcanic in origin, representing adjacent peaks in a chain of partially submerged volcanic mountains. Both islands are subject to subterranean seismographic activity, which sometimes results in earthquakes. Lava deposits on the windward side of St. Kitts attest to the area's volcanic past.

St. Kitts, the larger of the two islands at 168 square kilometers, is shaped like an oval with a long neck and a small peninsula at its southeastern end (see fig. 15). The peninsula is flat and consists of salt ponds and white beaches. Towering mountains extend through the central part of the island, running from southeast to northwest. Mount Liamuiga, a dormant volcanic cone with an elevation of 1,156 meters, is the highest point on the island. Brimstone Hall, on the southwest side of the island, is 229 meters high and is composed of volcanic rock covered with a layer of limestone.

St. Kitts' fertile soil is well watered, has adequate drainage, and usually requires little or no irrigation. Forested areas cover 4,500 hectares of land and include both rain forests at the lower altitudes and evergreen forests above 250 meters. There are 7,700 hectares of agriculturally productive land, much of the soil consisting of a clay base. An acute erosion problem persisted into the late 1980s on certain parts of the island. Erosion was a result of a mineral deficiency caused by a lack of crop rotation, overgrazing, and inadequate intercropping.

Cone-shaped Nevis is ten kilometers wide, thirteen kilometers long, and has a total land area of ninety-three square kilometers. Nevis Peak, in the center of a chain of mountains, is the highest point on the island at 965 meters. Its rugged, heavily forested slopes rise gently from the sea. The soil on Nevis Peak is weathered; soils everywhere on Nevis are generally less fertile than those on St. Kitts and have experienced much worse erosion. Water is plentiful in the higher elevations. There is no rainy season on Nevis, but showers can be torrential. There are several hot mineral springs on the island.

Both St. Kitts and Nevis have a tropical climate tempered by the northeast trade winds; there is little daily or seasonal variation. Temperatures generally range between 18C and 32C and average approximately 26C; lower temperatures prevail in the higher elevations. Humidity is generally about 70 percent. Annual precipitation varies from 100 to 300 centimeters. Neither island has the distinct rainy season characteristic of many other Caribbean islands. Winds are predominantly easterly and seldom exceed nineteen kilometers per hour except during the islands' hurricane season, which occurs from July to September.

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