São Paulo is located in Southeastern Brazil, in southeastern São Paulo State, approximately halfway between Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro. The city is located on a plateau located beyond the Serra do Mar (Portuguese for "Sea Range" or "Coastal Range"), itself a component of the vast region known as the Brazilian Highlands, with an average elevation of around above sea level, although being at a distance of only about from the Atlantic Ocean. The distance is covered by two highways, the Anchieta and the Imigrantes, (see "Transportation" below) that roll down the range, leading to the port city of Santos and the beach resort of Guarujá. Rolling terrain prevails within the urbanized areas of São Paulo except in its northern area, where the Serra da Cantareira Range reaches a higher elevation and a sizable remnant of the Atlantic Rain Forest. The region is seismically stable and no significant seismic activity has ever been recorded.
The Tietê River and its tributary, the Pinheiros River, were once important sources of fresh water and leisure for São Paulo. However, heavy industrial effluents and wastewater discharges in the later 20th century caused the rivers to become heavily polluted. A substantial clean-up program for both rivers is underway, financed through a partnership between local government and international development banks such as the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. Neither river is navigable in the stretch that flows through the city, although water transportation becomes increasingly important on the Tietê river further downstream (near river Paraná), as the river is part of the River Plate basin.
No large natural lakes exist in the region, but the Billings and Guarapiranga reservoirs in the city's southern outskirts are used for power generation, water storage and leisure activities, such as sailing. The original flora consisted mainly of broadleaf evergreens. non-native species are common, as the mild climate and abundant rainfall permit a multitude of tropical, subtropical and temperate plants to be cultivated, especially the ubiquitous eucalyptus.
The city has a monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate (Cfa/Cwa), according to the Köppen classification. In summer (January through March), the mean low temperature is about and the mean high temperatures is near . In winter, temperatures tend to range between and . The recorded high was on November 15, 1985 and the lowest on August 2, 1955 and on the same day was recorded unofficially. Temperature averages are similar to those of Sydney and Los Angeles. The Tropic of Capricorn, at about 23°27' S, passes through north of São Paulo and roughly marks the boundary between the tropical and temperate areas of South America. Because of its elevation, however, São Paulo enjoys a temperate climate.
Rainfall is abundant, annually averaging . It is especially common in the warmer months averaging and decreases in winter, averaging . Neither São Paulo nor the nearby coast has ever been hit by a tropical cyclone and tornadic activity is uncommon. During late winter, especially August, the city experiences the phenomenon known as "veranico" or "verãozinho" ("little summer"), which consists of hot and dry weather, sometimes reaching temperatures well above . On the other hand, relatively cool days during summer are fairly common when persistent winds blow from the ocean. On such occasions daily high temperatures may not surpass, accompanied by lows often below, however, summer can be extremely hot when a heat wave hits the city followed by temperatures around, but in places with greater skyscraper density and less tree cover, the temperature can feel like, as on Paulista Avenue for example. In the summer of 2012, São Paulo was affected by a heat wave that lasted for 2 weeks with highs going from to on the hottest days.
São Paulo is also known for its rapidly changing weather. Locals say that all four seasons can be experienced in one day. In the morning, when winds blow from the ocean, the weather can be cool or sometimes even cold. When the sun hits its peak, the weather can be extremely dry and hot. When the sun sets, the cold wind comes back bringing cool temperatures. This phenomenon happens usually in the winter.
The nonspecific term "Grande São Paulo" ("Greater São Paulo") covers multiple definitions. The legally defined Região Metropolitana de São Paulo consists of 39 municipalities in total and a population of 19,889,559 inhabitants (as of 2010 National Census).
Because São Paulo has significant urban sprawl, it uses a different definition for its metropolitan area, Complexo Metropolitano Expandido. Analogous to the US's CSA (Combined Area) definition, it is the third largest city in the world with 27 million inhabitants, behind Tokyo and Jakarta, which includes 2 contiguous legally defined metropolitan regions and 3 microregions.
The city of São Paulo is divided into 31 subprefectures, in turn divided into 96 districts. Locally, districts contain one or more neighborhoods . The subprefectures are officially grouped into nine regions (or "zones"), taking into account their geography and history of occupation. These regions are used only in technical and governmental agencies and are not identified by any visible features.
A geographic radial division was established in 2007 by mayor Gilberto Kassab. These geographical areas (historical downtown, extended downtown, north, south, east, west, northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest) are each identified with a distinct color on bus maps and in the street signs. These are not related to subprefectures and districts.
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