Climate Change Overview

Country Summary

This page presents high-level information for Cook Islands's climate zones and its seasonal cycle for mean temperature and precipitation for the latest climatology, 1991-2020. Climate zone classifications are derived from the Köppen-Geiger climate classification system, which divides climates into five main climate groups divided based on seasonal precipitation and temperature patterns. The five main groups are A (tropical), B (dry), C (temperate), D (continental), and E (polar). All climates except for those in the E group are assigned a seasonal precipitation sub-group (second letter).  Climate classifications are identified by hovering your mouse over the legend. A narrative overview of Cook Islands's country context and climate is provided following the visualizations.

The Cook Islands are located south of the equator and consists of 15 islands spread across nearly 2 million square kilometers (km2) of the South Pacific Ocean. Its islands are among the world’s most remote places. In 2016, the nation had a population of around 17,000 people, the majority of whom live on the main island of Rarotonga. The Cook Islands are in free association with New Zealand which allows for the sharing of some administrative and governance functions. As such, Cook Islanders hold New Zealand citizenship enabling them to migrate more freely than many of their Pacific neighbors. There are more than 50,000 Cook Islanders residing in New Zealand and a further 15,000 in Australia (altogether the Diaspora makes up nearly four times the resident population).  Migration, mainly to New Zealand, can be a challenging dynamic for the economic development of the Cook Islands.

The Cook Islands are known for their extraordinary natural beauty, which attracts significant tourism. Tourism accounted for an estimated 70% of GDP in 2018. The success of the industry has led to the Cook Islands’ economy to be one of the strongest in the South Pacific, with a GDP per capita of around $16,700 in 2016. Performance on poverty reduction and other social metrics is believed to have been strong, although national data is often lacking. Nevertheless, the nation faces very significant challenges, particularly in relation to natural hazards and economic vulnerability.

The Cook Islands are located in an area that is highly exposed to tropical cyclones with damaging winds, storm surge, and floods. To put this in perspective, between 1969/70 and 2010/11 an average of “18 cyclones per decade developed within or crossed the Cook Islands Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)".  The cumulative average annual losses to natural hazards has been estimated at around £5 million, or approximately 2% of GDP. Within this context, the Cook Islands takes climate change extremely seriously. Cook Islands published its Third National Communication to the UNFCCC in 2019,7 submitted its Nationally Determined Contribution in 2015, and ratified the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016.