Variance in Terrain by Country

The Country Similarity Index attempts to quantify how similar countries are to each other relative to other countries. The index is a statistically-based way to measure this. 20% of the index is based on geography. 20% of a country’s geography score (4% of the overall Country Similarity Index score) is allocated for the country’s terrain. The following are the factors that were included:

Elevation

Most countries have a relatively low average elevation. Small countries near the coast tend to have the lowest average elevations. Singapore, the Netherlands, and Qatar all have an average elevation of less than 30 meters. In contrast, Nepal and Tajikistan both have an average elevation of over 3,000 meters. Most of the countries with high average elevations are landlocked and extremely mountainous. The non-landlocked country with the highest elevation happens to be Chile, followed closely by China.

The Portland State University was the source of the information:
https://www.pdx.edu/economics/country-geography-data

Countries were categorized into the following average elevations in meters:
0-200, 200-400, 400-675, 675-950, 950-1300, 1300-1650, 1650-2075, 2075-2500, 2500-3000, 3000-3500

Mountainous Area

The countries with the highest average elevations also tend to be the most mountainous. However, some countries like Angola have a high average elevation, but little mountainous area since they are located on plateaus. Bhutan has the most mountainous area of any country, with an astounding 98.8%. Africa has especially few countries that are mountainous, although there are some exceptions, including Ethiopia and South Africa.

The GRID-Arendal was the source of the information:
http://www.grida.no/resources/5032

Countries were categorized into the following percentages of average mountain area:
0-20%, 20-40%, 40-60%, 60-80%, 80-100%

Ultra-prominent Peaks

Average elevation and percentage of mountainous area do not completely build a full picture of the nature of a country’s terrain. Although some mountains may be extremely tall, they do not look as tall in comparison with other mountains if they are connected to areas of high elevation. Ultra-prominent peaks are summits that are at least 1,500 meters taller than their surroundings. The number of ultra-prominent peaks was then divided by the country’s land area. The Philippines, Greece, Albania, and El Salvador all have an average elevation of less than 500 meters, but they are among the countries with the most ultra-prominent peaks per land area. 

The Ultras Project was the source of the data:
http://www.peaklist.org/ultras.html

Countries were categorized into the number of ultra peaks per 1 million sq. km:
0-7, 7-14, 14-28, 28-56, 56-112

Freshwater Area

Two countries in the Great Rift Valley, Malawi and Uganda, have a large percentage of are their territory covered by freshwater lakes. Many Northern countries, like Canada, Sweden, and Finland, have a lot of their territory covered by freshwater lakes as well, due to glaciers creating them. Countries in the desert obviously have a low percentage of surface freshwater.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development was the source of the information:
https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=SURFACE_WATER

Countries were categorized by the percentage of freshwater area:
0-.5%, .5-1%, 1-2%, 2-3%, 3-5%, 5-7%, 7-10%, 10-13%, 13-18%, 18-23%
(Permanent Water + (.5) Seasonal Water + (.5) Wetlands)

Coastal Borders

Island countries are completely surrounded by water, while landlocked countries have no coastline. For countries that are neither landlocked or islands, this section determines what percentage of the country is surrounded by land borders vs. coastline. Other than islands, some of the countries most surrounded by water include peninsulas like Denmark, Qatar, and South Korea.

Reddit was the source of the information:
https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/8vus19/rate_of_coastline_over_total_border_length/

Countries were categorized by the rate of coastline to total border length:
0-20%, 20-40%, 40-60%, 60-80%, 80-100%

Land Near Coast

While a country like Australia is completely surrounded by water, most of its territory is far from the coast. In addition, Canada technically has a the most coastline of any country, but only a small amount of its land is 100 km from the coast. In contrast, all of Brunei’s land is within 100 km of the coast, despite the fact that it is mostly surrounded by land borders, not water.

The University of Portland was the source of the information:
https://www.pdx.edu/econ/country-geography-data

Countries were categorized by the percentage of land at least 100 km from the coast:
0-20%, 20-40%, 40-60%, 60-80%, 80-100%

Obviously there is no one clear way to determine how similar one country is to another. How would you quantify how similar one country is to another?
Please leave any thoughts in the comments section.

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