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Climate - Kiribati

Temperature, rainfall, prevailing weather conditions, when to go, what to pack

See also the US version (°F - inches - feet)

Flag - Kiribati

The climate of Kiribati is tropical, hot all year round, with considerable differences in rainfall, in fact the islands are scattered in the centre of the Pacific Ocean, along the Equator, spanning a vast area.

- In the west, the Gilbert Islands, from which the name of the entire archipelago is derived, have an equatorial climate, rainy throughout the year, with a rainier season from December to April, and a relatively less rainy season from May to November. Even Banaba Island (or Ocean Island), separated from the others in the south-west, has a similar climate.
In the capital South Tarawa, where the daytime temperature throughout the year is around 31 °C, 1,900 mm of rain per year fall, with a maximum in January of 270 mm, and a minimum in September and October of 90 mm per month. Heading south, the rainfall decreases gradually, until it reaches about 1,500 mm in the southernmost Gilbert Islands.
Here is the average precipitation in South Tarawa.
Average precipitation South Tarawa
South Tarawa J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 255 200 190 175 145 135 165 125 110 110 120 210 1940
Days 20 19 20 19 18 17 19 19 18 19 18 20 226

Here are the average temperatures of South Tarawa, which as you can see are very stable.
South Tarawa average temperatures
South Tarawa J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25 25
Max (°C) 31 31 31 31 31 31 31 31 31 31 31 31

Even the sea is warm all year round, allowing long baths, as you can see in the following table.
Sea temperature South Tarawa
South Tarawa J F M A M J J A S O N D
Sea (°C) 29 28 28 29 29 29 29 29 29 29 29 29

- In the central area, the Phoenix Islands, almost completely uninhabited, are more arid, so that in the only inhabited atoll, Canton, just 500 mm of rain per year fall, with little rain from October to February, and moderate rains in the rest of the year.

- In the east, the Line Islands, or Equatorial Sporades, almost in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, are very extended in latitude, and the rainfall amount varies depending on the area: the central islands, despite being near the Equator, are semi-arid, while the northern islands are rainy because they lie within the Intertropical Convergence Zone. So, only 450 mm per year fall in Malden Island, just south of the Equator, and precipitation exceeds 100 mm per month only in April and May; it reaches 1,000 mm in Christmas Island (or Kiritimati), just north of the Equator, with heavy rains practically only in March and April.
Here is the average precipitation in Christmas Island.
Average precipitation Christmas Island
Christmas Island J F M A M J J A S O N D Year
Prec. (mm) 115 82 133 168 96 117 93 68 48 37 45 50 1052
Days 16 15 17 14 11 9 9 8 9 9 9 13 139

The rains become much more abundant in the northern Fanning Island (or Tabuaeran), which in fact have lush vegetation, and receives 2,100 mm of rain per year. Here, however, rainfall drops below 100 mm between September and November, but even August is acceptable with 115 mm of rain.
The southern islands (Vostok, Caroline, Flint) as regards the rainfall are halfway, receiving just more than 1,000 mm of rain per year.
However, the temperature is high all year round even here, as we can see from the averages of Christmas Island.
Christmas Island average temperatures
Christmas Island J F M A M J J A S O N D
Min (°C) 25 25 25 25 24 24 24 24 24 24 24 24
Max (°C) 30 30 31 31 31 31 31 31 31 31 31 31

In these eastern islands, the sea is warm all year round, even if it's just cooler than in the western ones, so that the water temperature is around 27/28 °C.

So far we have talked about the average temperature and rainfall, but it must be said that the Kiribati are strongly influenced by the phenomenon known as El Niño, as well as its opposite La Niña. With El Niño, the eastern currents which carry relatively cold water from South America, slow down, and therefore the climate becomes warmer and rainier than normal, while with La Niña the eastern currents become even more intense, so that the climate becomes cooler and drier, leading to recurrent drought, which in these atolls, flat and devoid of waterways, can cause major problems.

Being practically at the Equator, the Kiribatis are outside of the area where cyclones form, except the southern islands (Vostok, Caroline Flint), which are located at the edge of the area where they can form; in the period from November to April (although they are more likely from December to March).


When to go

The best time to visit the Western Kiribati (i.e. the Gilbert Islands) runs from May to November, better still, from September to November, because it is the least rainy. The Phoenix Islands, being drier, can be visited all year round, as well as the central Line Islands, while in the southern Line Islands, the period from November to April can be avoided for safety, because of the risk of cyclones.

What to pack

All year round, tropics-friendly, loose fitting clothing, sun hat, a scarf for the breeze, a light sweatshirt for the evening; light raincoat or umbrella, especially in the Gilbert Islands.

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