The Republic of the Philippines consists of an archipelago of over 7,000 islands in the western Pacific situated between 4° and 21°N.
The largest islands are, from north to south; Luzon, Samar, Leyte, Panay, Negros, Palawan, and Mindanao. They support most of the population and the main cities. All the larger islands are mountainous and have very indented coastlines, so that the country has a rugged and confused relief.
There are many mountain ranges and isolated peaks rising to 1,800-3,000 m/6,000-10,000 ft. The area of the country is 300,000 sq km/116,000 sq mi, rather larger than the United Kingdom.
The southern islands have an almost equatorial climate with significant rain around the year (see the table for Zamboanga on Mindanao). The central and northern islands have a tropical monsoon type of climate, similar to that of Indochina, with a single season of heavy rain.
In most areas the wettest time is from July to October when the wind system of the western Pacific is affected by the monsoon influence of the Asian continent. Winds are then southwesterly to southeasterly (see the tables for Manila in Luzon and Iloilo on Panay island).
Rainfall is particularly heavy in the period August to October, when much of it comes from tropical cyclones, called typhoons, in the South China Sea. The severest of these typhoons produce very high wind speeds and torrential rain.
Most of them develop east of the Philippines and move westwards into the South China Sea, where they deepen and intensify. A number of typhoons affect some part of the Philippines each year and the most severe cause widespread damage and loss of life through flooding and landslides, as well as wind damage.
Annual rainfall is over 1,000 mm/40 in almost everywhere, and where warm, damp Pacific air is forced to rise over coastal mountains, annual rainfall often exceeds 4,000-5,000 mm /160-200 in. Coasts facing northeast are exposed to the Pacific trade winds between November and March, and these areas have their heaviest rainfall at this time (see table for Surigao on the eastern side of Mindanao island).
Temperatures remain fairly high throughout the year except in the mountains, but excessive heat is rare. The worst feature of the climate, apart from the occasional typhoon, is the high humidity and cloud during the rainy season; on many days the weather is muggy and oppressive.
In the dry season the weather is more pleasant with much sunshine, up to seven or eight hours a day on average, with refreshing sea breezes on the coast.
There are a number of mountain resorts, such as Baguio, the summer capital, on Luzon Island. Although temperatures may be much lower here, rain and cloud increase.
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