Netherlands, also known unofficially as Holland, constitutional
monarchy of northwestern Europe, bordered on the north and west
by the North Sea, on the east by Germany, and on the south by Belgium.
With Belgium and Luxembourg, the Netherlands forms the Low, or Benelux,
Countries. The Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, islands in the Caribbean,
are part of the Netherlands.
The European portion of the Netherlands has a total area of 41,526
sq km (16,033 sq mi), of which 33,939 sq km (13,104 sq mi) is land
surface. The country's capital and largest city is Amsterdam.
The Netherlands, as its name suggests, is a low-lying country.
About half of the country's landmass lies below sea level. This
amount would increase should the polar ice caps melt and slowly
raise the level of the sea due to global warming.
Much of the western part, situated below sea level, is covered with
clay and peat soils interspersed with canals, rivers, and arms of
the sea. Farther to the east the land lies slightly above sea level
and is flat to gently rolling. The elevation rarely exceeds 50 m
(160 ft). Most of the land is devoted to agriculture; only small
areas of forest and heath remain.
The Netherlands shares the temperate maritime climate common to
much of northern and western Europe. The average temperature range
in Vlissingen in the coastal region is 1° to 5° C (34° to 41° F)
in January and 14° to 21° C (57° to 69° F) in July.
In De Bilt, in the densely populated central region of the country,
the average range is -1° to 4° C (31° to 40° F) in January and 13°
to 22° C (55° to 72° F) in July.
Annual precipitation averages 690 mm (27 in) in Vlissingen and
770 mm (30 in) in De Bilt. Cloudless days are uncommon, as is prolonged
frost. Because the Netherlands has few natural barriers, such as
high mountains, the climate varies little from region to region.