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Coastal and Marine Geology Program > St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center > Coasts of Colombia

Coasts of Colombia

Coasts of Colombia
Pacific Coast:
Introduction
Serranía del Baudó (Baudó Range)
Cabo Corrientes-
Togoromá
San Juan River Delta
Málaga Bay - Buenaventura Bay
Buenaventura Bay - Guapi
Patía River Delta
Tumaco Bay
Mira River Delta
Gorgona Island
Malpelo Island
References
Caribbean Coast:
Introduction
Guajira Peninsula Coast
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Coast
Magdalena River delta and Santa Marta lagoon complex
Barranquilla - Cartagena coast
Southern Caribbean coast
Gulf of Urabá
References
Project Contact:
Robert Morton

Caribbean Coast: Introduction

Map showing Caribbean coast of Colombia.
Figure 1. Caribbean coast of Colombia. [larger version]

Map showing primary shoreline types and descriptive elements of the Caribbean coast of Colombia.
Figure 2. Primary shoreline types and descriptive elements of the Caribbean coast of Colombia. [larger version]

The Caribbean coast of Colombia encompasses about 1600 km, from Castilletes, at the western border of Venezuela, to Cabo Tiburón, at the eastern border of Panamá (Fig. 1). It is a relatively developed area with numerous small cities and three large commerce centers or ports (Barranquilla, Cartagena, and Santa Marta). Land and air access from the interior of the country is possible to all medium and large cities. Colombia's primary Caribbean island areas are the coralline archipelagos of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina Islands, and El Rosario Islands, 100 km south of Cartagena (Fig. 1).

Located at the intersection among the Nazca, Caribbean, and South American plates, the Caribbean coast of Colombia is a mosaic of geologic and physiographically varied units composed of both extensive low-relief plains and medium- to high-relief rocky massifs (Fig. 2). The Caribbean coastal zone is crossed by several active faults that define its main morphostructural units. The area has been classified as an intermediate seismic risk zone (Asociación de Ingeniería Sísmica 1988). Paris et al. (2000) provide information about the main tectonic features and faults of the Caribbean region, whereas the primary morphologic features of the Caribbean coast platform can be found in CIOH (2000).

Climate of the Caribbean coast depends on the annual displacement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone and, for the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta massif, on its particular orographic influences. There are generally two rainy periods (April-May and October-November) and two dry periods (December-April and July-September). Maximum annual precipitation for the Colombian Caribbean does not exceed 2500 mm. Minimum values are within the desert region of the Guajira Peninsula (yearly mean of about 267 mm), and maximum values are at the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta massif (yearly mean of 2000 mm). Mean air temperatures for the Caribbean coast are less than 24ºC (IGAC 2002).

Tidal range along the Caribbean coast is a mixed semi-diurnal type, with maximum amplitudes of 60 cm (Invemar 2003). The tradewinds predominate, mainly from the east, north and northwest, at the Guajira Peninsula, and from the northeast to northwest, south of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (IGAC 2002). Net shore drift along the Caribbean coast of Colombia has a dominant southerly component, minor reversals to the northeast occurring during the rainy periods when south winds become dominant in some sectors.

The Caribbean coast of Colombia is out of the zone of direct influence of tropical cyclones, but it is affected by perimeter influences, especially along the northern Caribbean, between La Guajira and Cartagena, where high waves cause extensive shore erosion and lowland flooding (Ingeominas 1992).

Coastal and Marine Geology Program > St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center > Coasts of Colombia

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