Marshall Islands

Official name: Republic of the Marshall Islands

Area: 181 square kilometers (70 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Unnamed location on Likiep (10 meters/33 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 12 A.M. = noon GMT

Longest distances: Not available

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 370 kilometers (230 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)

1 LOCATION AND SIZE

The Marshall Islands are located in the central h2cific Ocean, between Hawaii and Papua New Guinea, and near Kiribati. Their combined land area is only slightly larger than Washington, D.C. The Marshall Islands include thirty-three municipalities.

2 TERRITORIES AND DEPENDENCIES

The Marshall Islands have no territories or dependencies.

3 CLIMATE

Since the Marshall Islands are located near the equator, the climate is hot and humid and there is little change between seasonal temperatures. Daily temperatures generally vary between 21°C and 34°C (70°F and 93°F). The high temperatures are cooled from December through March by trade winds that blow in from the northeast.

Monthly rainfall averages between 30 and 38 centimeters (12 and 15 inches). The wettest months are October and November and the driest are December through April. Because rainfall increases from north to south, the northern atolls receive an average of 178 centimeters (70 inches) annually, while the southern atolls average 432 centimeters (170 inches).

4 TOPOGRAPHIC REGIONS

Lying in the west-central part of the Pacific Ocean, the Marshall Islands are comprised of 1,152 islands (five of which are major islands) and 29 atolls, which form two almost parallel, chain-like formations known as the Sunrise (Ratak), or Eastern, group and the Sunset (Ralik), or Western, group. Most of the islands have an atoll formation; namely, narrow strips of low-lying land enclosing a lagoon.

5 OCEANS AND SEAS

Seacoast and Undersea Features

Located in the central Pacific Ocean, the Marshall Islands have 870 reef systems with about 160 coral species. The ocean floor around the Marshall Islands is also the final resting place of numerous Japanese and American battleships, sunk during World War II (1939-45).

Sea Inlets and Straits

Calalien Pass, the main channel in Majuro, is deep and wide; its configuration allows large container ships to pass between the ocean and the lagoon.

Islands and Archipelagos

Atolls, narrow strips of low land that enclose a lagoon, make up the majority of Marshall Islands. The Sunrise (Ratak) Group includes Mili, Majuro, Maloelap, Wotje, Likiep, Rongelap, Ailinginae, Bikini, Enewetok, and Ujelang Atolls. The Sunset (Ralik) Group includes Namorik, Ebon, Jaluit, Ailinglaplap, and Kwajalein Atolls. Besides atolls, the Marshall Islands also contain coral limestone and sand islands and islets.

Coastal Features

The Marshall Islands feature many white sand beaches.

6 INLAND LAKES

The Marshall Islands are too small to support any bodies of water larger than small lagoons and ponds.

7 RIVERS AND WATERFALLS

There are no notable rivers on any of the Marshall Islands.

8 DESERTS

There are no desert areas on the Marshall Islands.

9 FLAT AND ROLLING TERRAIN

Most of the flat areas have sandy soils that are not very fertile. Coconut palms, bread-fruit, pandanu, and citrus trees are the dominant tree species; in fact, about 8,900 hectares (22,000 acres) of land is planted with coconut palms.

The Marshall Islands are not particularly hilly.

10 MOUNTAINS AND VOLCANOES

There are no mountains or volcanoes in the Marshall Islands; the average elevation of the country is 2 meters (7 feet) above sea level.

11 CANYONS AND CAVES

There are no notable canyons or caves in the Marshall Islands.

12 PLATEAUS AND MONOLITHS

There are no significant plateau regions on the Marshall Islands.

13 MAN-MADE FEATURES

There are no notable man-made features on the Marshall Islands.

14 FURTHER READING

Books

Dibblin, Jane. Day of Two Suns: U.S. Nuclear Testing and the Pacific Islanders . New York: New Amsterdam, 1990.

Tobin, Jack. Stories from the Marshall Islands . Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2002.

Web Sites

The Marshall Islands. http://marshall.csu.edu.au (accessed April 24, 2003).

Republic of the Marshall Islands. http://www.rmiembassyus.org/about/geography.html (accessed April 24, 2003).

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