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    Federated States of Micronesia: Overlooking some islands. Go Now!

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Geography, Weather, & Wildlife of the Marshall Islands


The Marshall Islands are very low-lying (the highest point is only 33 feet (10 meters) above sea level) as the country consists of 5 islands, 31 coral atolls, and over 1,000 additionally islets. The Marshall Islands, which sit in the heart of Micronesia, primarily consist of two parallel island chains running northwest and southeast: the Rolik Chain in the west and the Ratak Chain in the east.

Many of the country's islands are the top of volcanoes that peak above the water's surface and this volcanic origin makes the land somewhat fertile, although today the coral surfaces have taken much of that fertile soil and all land is very limited in area. On the more coralline islands the land is not as fertile.

The ocean currents run from the east to the west, but with no true islands in the east, most of the earliest settlers arrived from the southern islands in Kiribati, part of which are an extension of the Rolik Island Chain. However, these ocean currents aren't enough to attract regular visitors so over time the people on the Marshall Islands became almost completely isolated and developed a unique culture.


The Marshall Islands' weather is hot, humid, rainy, and fairly predictable. Temperatures remain fairly constant year round and rains never cease, but there are substantial differences in the amounts of rain and the humidity by season and location. Despite the alterations, the climate is fairly regular and the vast amounts of rain make the islands, at least some of the islands, ideal for crop growth and human settlement. These rains allow great vegetation and fresh water, even on islands that don't have any rivers.

The temperatures on the islands remain quite stable year round as daily lows hover around 75° F (24° C) and day time highs usually peak at about 86° F (30° C) for the entire country. Even the rains are fairly consistent year round as islands in the south tend to get over 6 inches (175 mm) of rain every month, while the northern islands tend to get just under 4 inches (100 mm) of rain each month.

Despite the consistency, there is still a "dry" and rainy season, although dry is only in relative terms to the wet season. The dry season runs from about January to April, but in some areas is extended into May or even later. For the most part, the dry season has steady rains, but the amount of those rains varies from location to location. During these drier months rainfall varies from almost no rain on Enewetak in the north to about 8 inches (200 mm) of rain per month in Majuro, in the south.

The wet season, which tends to be fairly short and involves heavy rains on a regular basis, tends to run from about May to November, with the season running a bit latter (June to December) in the south. Majuro averages over 11 inches (300 mm) of rain each month, while the drier northern islands, such as Enewetak, get about 6 inches (150 mm) of rain each month. Although typhoons (cyclones) are well known throughout the Pacific, the Marshall Islands fall out of the typhoon zone. Despite this, heavy storms and a typhoon can still hit the islands any time of year, although no big storms have hit the islands in years.


Marshalese Wildlife - Coconut tree
Coconut tree

As an island nation the number of native plants and animals in the Marshall Islands are severely limited. The native land life is almost non-existent and the native plant life was very limited; only the migrating birds and sea life had any significant presence in the historic Marshall Islands. Most of what is found on the islands today was introduced in pre-historic times by the migrating people, birds, winds, and ocean currents.

As an island nation that rose from the sea floor there were no native mammals in the Marshall Islands, although a few bat species arrived thousands of years ago. Other than this, no land mammals existed on the Marshall Islands until the arrival of the earliest people, who likely came from the region of New Guinea and brought with them pigs, dogs, mice, and rats, including the Pacific Rat.

The other historic mammals connected with the Marshall Islands are in the sea as dolphins and whales are present in the waters surrounding the islands. These waters are also filled with thousands of fish, shellfish, and other forms of sea life. In these waters you can find surgeonfish, clownfish, sailfish, puffer fish, butterfly fish, grouper, barracuda, tuna, mackerel, marlin, mahi-mahi, shrimp, krill, crab, seahorses, manta rays, sharks, jellyfish, starfish, and sea urchins among many others.

The water and the land have attracted more than just fish though, they have also attracted numerous birds, including many that feed off the animals in the sea. The bird life in the Marshall Islands includes doves, owls, passerines, scrub fowls, and heron among others.

Marshalese Wildlife - Sugarcane

Like the mammalian life, the reptilian and amphibious life is fairly limited. The most common of these animals are those adapted to the water and swimming as sea turtles can be found in the nearby waters and two species even nest in the Marshall Islands. Land animals have again made their way to the islands in numerous methods and today lizards are among the most common of these animals, although one species of snake exists as well.

The insect and other small animal life is fairly diverse as many insects can fly or float and they have made their way to the Marshall Islands. These animals include butterflies, bees, ants, flies, snails, and spiders among others.

Like the animal life, the plant life is also very limited. It is doubtful any plants originated in the country itself other than a very limited number of local plants. However the winds and water currents have taken seeds to the islands and in other cases birds have transported seeds to the islands. Because of this many of the most common plants on the islands today are native to the nearby islands of New Guinea and those further west. Plants from these nearby islands that now thrive in the country include coconuts, taro, breadfruit, bananas, yams, arrowroot, lemons, and sugarcane among others.

There is also a substantial presence of other trees and plants, including orchids, hibiscus, eucalyptus, frangipani, ferns, mosses, mangrove trees, and pandanus trees.

This page was last updated: April, 2013