Mexico is located between latitudes 14° and 33°N, and longitudes 86° and 119°W in the southern portion of North America. Almost all of Mexico lies in the North American Plate, with small parts of the Baja California peninsula on the Pacific and Cocos Plates. Geophysically, some geographers include the territory east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (around 12% of the total) within Central America. Geopolitically, however, Mexico is entirely considered part of North America, along with Canada and the United States.
Mexico's total area is 1,972,550 km2 (761,606 sq mi), making it the world's 14th largest country by total area, and includes approximately 6,000 km2 (2,317 sq mi) of islands in the Pacific Ocean (including the remote Guadalupe Island and the Revillagigedo Islands), Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Gulf of California. From its farthest land points, Mexico is a little over 2,000 mi (3,219 km) in length.
On its north, Mexico shares a 3,141 km (1,952 mi) border with the United States. The meandering Río Bravo del Norte (known as the Rio Grande in the United States) defines the border from Ciudad Juárez east to the Gulf of Mexico. A series of natural and artificial markers delineate the United States-Mexican border west from Ciudad Juárez to the Pacific Ocean. Donald Trump made the construction of a border wall (on the U.S. side) an element of his 2016 presidential campaign. On its south, Mexico shares an 871 km (541 mi) border with Guatemala and a 251 km (156 mi) border with Belize.
Mexico is crossed from north to south by two mountain ranges known as Sierra Madre Oriental and Sierra Madre Occidental, which are the extension of the Rocky Mountains from northern North America. From east to west at the center, the country is crossed by the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt also known as the Sierra Nevada. A fourth mountain range, the Sierra Madre del Sur, runs from Michoacán to Oaxaca.
As such, the majority of the Mexican central and northern territories are located at high altitudes, and the highest elevations are found at the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt: Pico de Orizaba (5,700 m or 18,701 ft), Popocatepetl (5,462 m or 17,920 ft) and Iztaccihuatl (5,286 m or 17,343 ft) and the Nevado de Toluca (4,577 m or 15,016 ft). Three major urban agglomerations are located in the valleys between these four elevations: Toluca, Greater Mexico City and Puebla.
The Tropic of Cancer effectively divides the country into temperate and tropical zones. Land north of the twenty-fourth parallel experiences cooler temperatures during the winter months. South of the twenty-fourth parallel, temperatures are fairly constant year round and vary solely as a function of elevation. This gives Mexico one of the world's most diverse weather systems.
Areas south of the 24th parallel with elevations up to 1,000 m (3,281 ft) (the southern parts of both coastal plains as well as the Yucatán Peninsula), have a yearly median temperature between 24 to 28 °C (75.2 to 82.4 °F). Temperatures here remain high throughout the year, with only a 5 °C (9 °F) difference between winter and summer median temperatures. Both Mexican coasts, except for the south coast of the Bay of Campeche and northern Baja, are also vulnerable to serious hurricanes during the summer and fall. Although low-lying areas north of the 24th parallel are hot and humid during the summer, they generally have lower yearly temperature averages (from 20 to 24 °C or 68.0 to 75.2 °F) because of more moderate conditions during the winter.
Many large cities in Mexico are located in the Valley of Mexico or in adjacent valleys with altitudes generally above 2,000 m (6,562 ft). This gives them a year-round temperate climate with yearly temperature averages (from 16 to 18 °C or 60.8 to 64.4 °F) and cool nighttime temperatures throughout the year.
Many parts of Mexico, particularly the north, have a dry climate with sporadic rainfall while parts of the tropical lowlands in the south average more than 2,000 mm (78.7 in) of annual precipitation. For example, many cities in the north like Monterrey, Hermosillo, and Mexicali experience temperatures of 40 °C (104 °F) or more in summer. In the Sonoran Desert temperatures reach 50 °C (122 °F) or more.
In 2012, Mexico passed a comprehensive climate change bill, a first in the developing world, that has set a goal for the country to generate 35% of its energy from clean energy sources by 2024, and to cut emissions by 50% by 2050, from the level found in 2000. During the 2016 North American Leaders' Summit, the target of 50% of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2025 was announced.
Mexico ranks fourth in the world in biodiversity and is one of the 17 megadiverse countries. With over 200,000 different species, Mexico is home of 10–12% of the world's biodiversity. Mexico ranks first in biodiversity in reptiles with 707 known species, second in mammals with 438 species, fourth in amphibians with 290 species, and fourth in flora, with 26,000 different species. Mexico is also considered the second country in the world in ecosystems and fourth in overall species. Approximately 2,500 species are protected by Mexican legislations.
In 2002, Mexico had the second fastest rate of deforestation in the world, second only to Brazil. The government has taken another initiative in the late 1990s to broaden the people's knowledge, interest and use of the country's esteemed biodiversity, through the Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad.
In Mexico, 170,000 square kilometres (65,637 sq mi) are considered "Protected Natural Areas." These include 34 biosphere reserves (unaltered ecosystems), 67 national parks, 4 natural monuments (protected in perpetuity for their aesthetic, scientific or historical value), 26 areas of protected flora and fauna, 4 areas for natural resource protection (conservation of soil, hydrological basins and forests) and 17 sanctuaries (zones rich in diverse species).
The discovery of the Americas brought to the rest of the world many widely used food crops and edible plants. Some of Mexico's native culinary ingredients include: chocolate, avocado, tomato, maize, vanilla, guava, chayote, epazote, camote, jícama, nopal, zucchini, tejocote, huitlacoche, sapote, mamey sapote, many varieties of beans, and an even greater variety of chiles, such as the habanero and the jalapeño. Most of these names come from indigenous languages like Nahuatl.
Because of its high biodiversity Mexico has also been a frequent site of bioprospecting by international research bodies. The first highly successful instance being the discovery in 1947 of the tuber "Barbasco" (Dioscorea composita) which has a high content of diosgenin, revolutionizing the production of synthetic hormones in the 1950s and 1960s and eventually leading to the invention of combined oral contraceptive pills.