Geography - Belarus is landlocked, relatively flat, and contains large tracts of marshy land. Lakes and rivers punctuate the country. The largest marsh territory is Polesie, which is among the largest marshes in Europe. There are 11,000 lakes in Belarus, but the majority of the lakes are smaller than 0.5 square kilometer (120 acres). Three major rivers run through the country; the Neman River, the Pripyat River, and the Dnepr River. Belarus' highest point is Dzyarzhynskaya Hara (Dzyarzhynsk Hill), 345 meters (1,132 ft), and its lowest point is on the Neman River, 90 meters (295 ft). Belarus is home, along with Poland, to the Belavezhskaya Pushcha, the only remaining, virgin part of the immense forest that once spread across the European Plain.
The climate ranges from harsh winters (average January temperatures are in the range −8 to −2 °C (18 to 28 °F) to cool and moist summers (average temperature 15 to 20 °C (59 to 68 °F). On average, 15–30 centimeters of snow falls in the country, mostly in the northeast. Belarus experiences an average rainfall of 600–700 millimeters with over 70% of the rain falling during the warmer periods of the year. Due to the weather patterns, natural disasters such as droughts and floods occasionally occur in Belarus. Between the period of 1881 until 2005, the average temperature of Belarus rose 1 degree Celsius, with temperatures rising significantly during the winter and spring months. It has been projected that Belarus will face a 3 to 4 degree Celsius rise in average temperatures when the twenty-first century ends.
Forest covers about 34% of the total landscape, making forestry products one of the most abundant natural resources in Belarus. Other natural resources found in Belarus include peat deposits, small quantities of oil and natural gas, granite, dolomite (limestone), marl, chalk, sand, gravel, and clay. About one-fifth of the territory, mostly agricultural and forest lands in the southeastern provinces of Homyel and Mahilyow, continue to be affected by fallout from the 1986 nuclear power plant disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine. While the amount of radiation has decreased since the disaster, most of the area is considered uninhabitable. Approximately 70% of the total radiation emitted from the Chernobyl plant entered into Belarusian territory. The United Nations has created programs to help Belarus reduce the level of radiation in the affected areas, mostly reducing the levels of caesium-137 that are found in the soil. Another United Nations program is using the rapeseed cultivation method to increase agricultural output from the affected areas.
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