Country

Marshall Islands

Explore historical and projected climate data, climate data by sector, impacts, key vulnerabilities and what adaptation measures are being taken. Explore the overview for a general context of how climate change is affecting Marshall Islands.

Vulnerability

The major climate-related natural hazards impacting the Marshall Islands are sea level rise, droughts, and tropical storms and typhoons. The impacts of natural hazards in the Republic of the Marshall Islands are exacerbated by the underlying conditions of vulnerability, including extremely high population density, high levels of poverty, low elevation, and a weak economic base, among others. 

This section provides a summary of key natural hazards and their associated socioeconomic impacts in a given country. And it allows quick evaluation of most vulnerable areas through the spatial comparison of natural hazard data with development data, thereby identifying exposed livelihoods and natural systems.

Natural Hazard Statistics

The charts provide overview of the most frequent natural disaster in a given country and understand the impacts of those disasters on human populations.

Natural Hazard / Development Nexus

This tool allows the overlay of different natural hazard maps with social economic datasets by sliding the bar horizontally, which provides a broad sense of vulnerable areas.

 
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Key Vulnerabilities

  • Shoreline erosion caused by sea level rise is already a significant problem across the Marshall Islands. According to a study conducted in 1992 of Majuro atoll by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a three foot rise in sea levels would completely inundate the atoll, and defense mechanisms to protect the atoll from a one-in-fifty year storm event would be impossible.
  • Wet season rainfall supplies the majority of freshwater to the RMI. However, EL Niño conditions in this part of the Pacific can shift rainfall patterns, bringing significantly less rainfall than in normal years and leading to drought conditions. Droughts are especially damaging in the atolls lacking sufficient rain-water harvesting/storage capacity to withstand dry periods, as is the case with most of the outer atolls of the dry North (Utrik, Ailuk, Likiep, Wotho, Lae, and Namu).
  • Strong winds, wave run-up, and overtopping of beach berms and protective structures are significant sources of flooding and damage across RMI9 . Such was the case in 2008, when one of the worst recorded disasters in the nation’s history took place. A combination of factors, including three major storms in two weeks and high tides, together flooded (via storm surges) a large part of the Majuro atoll, damaging more than 300 homes and forcing 10% of the population to temporary shelters.

More information on natural hazards can be found at ThinkHazard.

  • The impacts of natural hazards in the Republic of the Marshall Islands are exacerbated by:
    • Extremely high population density, especially on the two urban islands of the archipelago (Ebeye and Majuro). 
    • High levels of poverty (20% of the population lives on less than $1/day). 
    • Low elevations: average elevation of most islands is approximately two meters above sea level, with the highest recorded point on the atoll at 10 meters above sea level (Likiep), and the majority of the population living along the coastline. 
    • Dispersed archipelago (the islands are spread across three quarters of a million square miles) making administration, communications and operations challenging. 
    • Limited and fragile island ecosystems and fresh-water resources (vulnerable to over-use, contamination, and droughts). 
    • A weak economic base heavily dependent on donor support. 
  • Water crises during El Niño-driven droughts are becoming increasingly common on smaller and more remote northern atolls which rely primarily on rainwater and have limited harvesting capacity, and high costs to serve from a centralized government.
  • Hygiene and sanitation continue to be a concern, and a particular challenge is to manage a sewage system without contaminating the ground-water lens. Already, some of the country’s fresh-water lens has been contaminated with brine.