Climate Change Overview

Country Summary

This page presents high-level information for Marshall 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 Marshall Islands's country context and climate is provided following the visualizations.

As part of the larger island grouping of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) consists of two groups of atolls and islands in the Central North Pacific Ocean about 3,200 kilometers (km) away from both Honolulu and Tokyo. 22 of the 29 atolls and four out of the five small raised coral islands are inhabited; the atoll islands are rarely more than 200 meters (m) in width and almost all of the land is below 2 m. Most of the RMI’s population of approximately 58,700 persons (2019), live in the capital city, Majuro. 

The RMI faces a variety of social vulnerabilities, much like many other small island developing states (SIDS). Issues of geographical remoteness, a small sparsely-distributed population, distance to international import and export markets, and associated high costs of transportation, small domestic market, challenges of achieving economies of scale of production, and very high energy costs, as well as few natural resources, all hinder economic development potential. The RMI is heavily reliant on imports – agricultural production is primarily subsistence-based, and small-scale industry is limited to handicrafts, tuna processing and copra.

The Marshall Islands face a high risk of cyclones, and the low-lying islands are susceptible to coastal floods and tsunamis. Extreme heat and drought conditions have also recently affected the islands. In late 2015/early 2016, below average rainfall, exacerbated by El Niño, induced local drought conditions and water shortages. Drought affects more than half the population, with resulting economic damages estimated at just under US$5 million. While this event remains the most severe disaster for the country, the potential for disaster risk in the RMI is high due to the combination of economic and physical vulnerability, and the islands’ proneness to natural hazards (it is also noted that previous nuclear testing on some of the atolls have made them uninhabited), and is further exacerbated by climate change and variability.