The Maltese Islands are located in the central part of the Mediterranean Sea, between Sicily and the coast of North Africa. They are about 94km away to the south of Sicily, 354km to the north of Tripoli, and about 290km to the east of Tunisia.
The Maltese archipelago consists of three main islands – Malta, Gozo and Comino. The smallest islands of the archipelago, Cominotto, Filfla and Saint Paul’s Islands, are uninhabited. The Maltese archipelago, having a northwest to southeast direction, has a maximum length of about 45km. Malta, the largest island, has a surface area of around 246 square kilometers; its maximum length is approximately 35km and its maximum width around 15km. Gozo, the second largest island, has a surface area of about 68 square kilometers, while Comino has a surface area of approximately 2.5 square kilometers and is the least inhabited island. The Maltese Islands are characterized by a number of natural harbours, many of them being sheltered.
The type of rock we find in the Maltese Islands is sedimentary and consists of five layers placed one on each other. At the bottom, there is the Lower Coralline Limestone, which is the earliest type of rock to have been formed in the Maltese Islands millions of years ago. On top of this layer, we find the porous Globigerina Limestone, which is the most important in the building industry. On the Globigerina, there is the Blue Clay, occurring mostly in western Malta and in various parts of Gozo. This layer is impermeable and gives rise to the formation of water springs, ideal for field irrigation. On the Blue Clay layer, there is the Greensands layer, which is porous and occurs only in small pockets of land. Above these there is the Upper Coralline Limestone, which is also important in the building industry, especially for the production of grit and concrete. Upper Coralline occurs mostly in western Malta and eastern Gozo.
Geologically, western and northern Malta consists of a chain of parallel hills and valleys. Western and eastern Malta is separated from the northern region by an extensive fault, which extends from Madliena to Ras ir-Raheb in the limits of Baħrija. The chain of hills in western and northern Malta consists mainly of wasteland, and the land is often neither suitable for land cultivation nor animal husbandry. On the other hand, the valleys of this part of the island are extremely fertile, as these are irrigated by the water springs that originate from the Upper Coralline uplands. The eastern part of Malta basically consists of a series of low hills that gently lead to an extensive plain towards the easternmost part of Malta. The most common type of rock occurring in this part of the island is the Globigerina Limestone, which is why there are a number of quarries, as it is relatively soft and can be easily worked by masons.
Gozo and Comino have more or less the same characteristics of northern Malta. Gozo is characterised by a chain of flat-topped hills, across which one finds many terraced fields and a series of valleys. The commonest rock types on Gozo are the Upper Coralline and the Globigerina Limestone.
The climate of the Maltese Islands consists of cold and rainy winters and of hot and humid summers. The local average temperature during the coldest months of the year, which are January and February, is approximately 11 degrees Celsius, while the local average temperature reached during the hottest months, which are generally July and August, is of about 34 degrees Celsius. Normally, rain falls in winter, especially between November and February, with an average annual rainfall of about 350 millimetres.
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