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The Elevation Span of Every Country in the World

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The Elevation Span of Every Country in the World

View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.

Giant countries like Canada or Russia can take their sprawling landmasses for granted, but for smaller oceanic nations, topography takes on greater importance.

In the Indian Ocean, ringed by protective barriers, lies the island city of Malé – the capital of the Maldives. Malé has a thriving tourism industry and is one of the most urbanized islands in the world, but it has one major problem: its elevation (or lack thereof).

Over 80% of the nation’s landmass is below 3.3 ft (1m), leaving it acutely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. If sea levels continue to rise, the entire chain of islands, including the homes of half a million people, could be submerged in as soon as 30 years.

Breaking out the measuring stick

Today’s data visualization, via Fascinating Maps, is a global breakdown of every country’s elevation span, from the severe mountain peaks that dominate Bhutan’s landscape, to the sweltering Dead Sea depression that runs along the Israel–Jordan border.

By looking at the data, we see interesting patterns and unique situations emerge.

The Power of Zero: The median low-end land elevation of the world’s countries is zero. This is because shoreline typically makes up the lowest portion of a country’s terra firma. It’s easy to spot a landlocked country in the data set, as its lowest elevation is far more likely to be above sea level.

The Lowlands: In general, the smallest countries tend to have the smallest elevation spans, but some countries buck that trend. Denmark, which has a respectable 16,577 quare miles (42,933 sq. km) of land, has an elevation range of only 583 ft (178m). This means the highest point in the country is only 50m taller than its tallest building, Herlev Hospital, near Copenhagen.

The Highlands: Three countries – Nepal, Tajikistan, and Bhutan – have an average elevation that soars above 10,000 ft (3,050m). The latter country has the highest average elevation in the world.

Bhutan Elevation Map:
bhutan elevation map

Supersized Elevation Span: China has the the largest elevation span of any country on Earth. The average elevation of the country skews high, thanks in part to the Tibetan Plateau. A number of the highest permanent settlements in the world exist in this region.

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Maps

Mapped: The World’s Wettest and Driest Countries

From tropical rainforests to the sandy deserts of North Africa, the world’s wettest and driest countries are a study in contrasts.

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A cropped map of the wettest and driest countries in the world along with their average annual precipitation in millimeters.

Where are the World’s Wettest and Driest Countries?

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

From tropical rainforest nations to the sandy deserts of North Africa and the Middle East, the world’s wettest and driest countries are a study in contrasts.

We map and rank the countries that receive the highest and lowest average annual precipitation in millimeters, per latest data from the World Bank.

Ranked: Top 10 Wettest Countries

Colombia tops the list of nations with the highest average precipitation at 3,240 millimeters (128 inches) in a year.

Its Tutunendo district is the one of the world’s wettest places, averaging nearly 12,000 mm (463 inches) of rain annually.

RankCountryAverage Annual
Precipitation (mm)
1Colombia3,240
2Sao Tome & Principe3,200
3Papua New Guinea3,142
4Solomon Islands3,028
5Panama2,928
6Costa Rica2,926
7Samoa2,880
8Malaysia2,875
9Brunei2,722
10Indonesia2,702

Note: Figures are rounded.

Off the coast of Africa however, Sao Tome & Principe is not far behind Colombia, receiving about 3,200 mm of rain in 2020.

Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands also average more than 3,000 mm of rain in a year, and Panama (2,928 mm) rounds out the top five.

Noticeably, all 10 countries lie in close proximity to the equator, and near oceans, where rising hot and humid air leads to abundant rainfall.

Ranked: Top 10 Driest Countries

On the other end of the scale, Egypt records the lowest average annual rainfall across all countries, at 18 mm (0.7 inches). For comparison, Colombia receives nearly 180x the amount of rain Egypt does.

RankCountryAverage Annual
Precipitation (mm)
1Egypt18
2Libya56
3Saudi Arabia59
4Qatar74
5UAE78
6Bahrain83
7Algeria89
8Mauritania92
9Jordan111
10Kuwait121

Note: Figures are rounded.

In fact, countries from North Africa and the Middle East make up the entirety of this list of the driest countries in the world.

Learn More About Rainfall From Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out Mapping the Unequal Distribution of Global Precipitation which divides the world into two halves: one that receives more than global average of rain (or snow), and one that receives less.

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