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Geography of the Bahamas

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Title: Geography of the Bahamas  
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Geography of the Bahamas

The Bahamas from space. NASA Aqua satellite image, 2009.
This short video shows the cloudy island of Cuba and the Bahamas as the ISS flies from the Caribbean Sea north-east to the Atlantic Ocean. In the video, you can see Cuba is mostly covered by clouds, but the reefs in the Bahamas stand out quite nicely.

The Bahamas is a group of about 700 atolls and cays in the western Atlantic Ocean, of which only between 30 and 40 are inhabited. The largest of the islands is Andros Island, located 200 km (120 mi) southeast of Florida. The Bimini islands are to its northwest. To the North is the island of Grand Bahama, home to the second largest city in the country, Freeport. The island of Great Abaco is to its east. In the far south is the island of Great Inagua, the second largest island in the country. Other notable islands include Eleuthera, Cat Island, San Salvador Island, Acklins, Crooked Island, and Mayaguana. Nassau is the capital and largest city, located on New Providence. The islands have a tropical climate, moderated by the Gulf Stream.

The islands are surface projections of the three oceanic Bahama Banks - the Little Bahama Bank, the Great Bahama Bank, and the westernmost Cay Sal Bank. The highest point is only 63 meters above sea level on Cat Island; the island of New Providence, where the capital city of Nassau is located, reaches a maximum elevation of only thirty-seven meters. The land on the Bahamas has a foundation of fossil coral, but much of the rock is oolitic limestone; the stone is derived from the disintegration of coral reefs and seashells. The land is primarily either rocky or mangrove swamp. Low scrub covers much of the surface area. Pineyards are found on four of the northern islands: Grand Bahama, Great Abaco, New Providence, and Andros. On some of the southern islands, low-growing tropical hardwood flourishes. Although some soil is very fertile, it is also very thin. Only a few freshwater lakes and just one river, located on Andros Island, are found in the Bahamas.


  • Climate 1
  • Geography 2
    • Location 2.1
    • Area 2.2
      • Area comparative 2.2.1
    • Land 2.3
      • Natural resources 2.3.1
      • Land use 2.3.2
      • Coastline 2.3.3
      • Terrain 2.3.4
      • Elevation extremes 2.3.5
      • Irrigated land 2.3.6
    • Environment 2.4
      • Natural hazards 2.4.1
      • Environment - Current issues 2.4.2
      • Environment - International agreements 2.4.3
      • Geography - note 2.4.4
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5


Wettest tropical cyclones in the Bahamas
Highest known totals
Precipitation Storm Location Ref
Rank mm in
1 747.5 29.43 Noel 2007 Long Island [1]
2 436.6 17.19 Flora 1963 Duncan Town [2]
3 390.1 15.36 Inez 1966 Nassau Airport [2]
4 337.1 13.27 Fox 1952 New Providence [2]
5 321.1 12.64 Michelle 2001 Nassau [3]
6 309.4 12.18 Erin 1995 Church Grove [4]
7 260.0 9.88 Fay 2008 Freeport [5]
8 236.7 9.32 Floyd 1999 Little Harbor Abacos [6]
9 216.4 8.52 Cleo 1964 West End [2]
10 207.0 8.15 Betsy 1965 Green Turtle Cay [2]

The climate of the archipelago is tropical and has two seasons, summer and winter. During the spring, which extends from May through November, the climate is dominated by warm, moist tropical air masses moving north through the Caribbean. Midsummer temperatures range from 23 to 32 °C (73.4 to 89.6 °F) with a relative humidity of 60 to 100%. In winter months, extending from December through April, the climate is affected by the movement of cold polar masses from North America. Temperatures during the winter months range from 16 to 25 °C (60.8 to 77.0 °F).

While there has never been a freeze reported in the Bahamas, the temperature can fall to 3 °C (37.4 °F) during Arctic outbreaks that affect nearby Florida. Snow has been reported to have mixed with rain in Freeport in January 1977, the same time that it snowed in the Miami area. The temperature was about 5 °C (41 °F) at the time.

Yearly rainfall averages 1,400 millimetres (55 in) and is usually concentrated in the May–June and August–October periods. Rainfall often occurs in short-lived, fairly intense showers accompanied by strong gusty winds, which are then followed by rainfalls.

Winds are predominantly easterly throughout the year but tend to become northeasterly from October to April and southeasterly from May to September. These winds seldom exceed twenty-four kilometers per hour except during hurricane season. Although the hurricane season officially lasts from June to November, most hurricanes in the Bahamas occur between July and October. Before a long lull in activity which ended in the 1990s, the last one to strike was Hurricane David in September 1979. Damage was estimated at US$1.8 million and mainly affected agricultural products. The most intense twentieth-century hurricane to strike the Bahamas was the 1929 Bahamas hurricane; winds of up to 230 kilometres per hour (140 mph) were recorded. Many lives were lost, and there was extensive damage to buildings, homes, and boats.

Climate data for Nassau Airport, Bahamas
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C 25.2 25.3 26.5 27.7 29.2 30.7 31.7 31.8 31.3 29.7 27.7 25.9 28.56
Average low °C 16.7 16.9 17.7 19.0 21.0 22.9 23.7 23.8 23.6 22.2 20.0 17.7 20.43
Precipitation mm 47.2 40.3 39.8 53.8 116.3 232.9 157.7 215.9 171.4 175.5 56.6 51.8 1,359.2
Average high °F 77.4 77.5 79.7 81.9 84.6 87.3 89.1 89.2 88.3 85.5 81.9 78.6 83.4
Average low °F 62.1 62.4 63.9 66.2 69.8 73.2 74.7 74.8 74.5 72 68 63.9 68.8
Precipitation inches 1.9 1.7 1.6 2.2 4.8 9.5 6.5 8.9 7 7.2 2.3 2.1 55.7
% humidity 78 78 76 74 77 79 77 79 81 80 78 78 77.92
Source: World Climate [7]



Map of the Bahamas

Atlantic Ocean, chain islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida, northeast of Cuba and northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Geographic coordinates (capital city Nassau): 25°4′N 77°20′W


  • total: 13,940 km²
county comparison to the world: 168
  • land: 10 070 km²
  • water: 3 870 km²

Area comparative


Natural resources

Land use

  • arable land: 0.58%
  • permanent crops: 0.29%
  • other: 99.13% (2005)


  • 3,542 km


  • long, flat coral formations with some low rounded hills

Elevation extremes

Irrigated land

  • 10 km2 (2003)


Natural hazards

  • Hurricanes and other tropical storms that cause extensive flood and wind damage.

Environment - Current issues

  • Coral reef decay
  • Solid waste disposal

Environment - International agreements

Party to these agreements:

  • Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

Geography - note

  • strategic location adjacent to US and Cuba
  • extensive island chain of which 30 islands are inhabited

See also


  1. ^ Brown, Daniel P; National Hurricane Center (December 17, 2007) (PDF). Hurricane Noel 2007'' (Tropical Cyclone Report). United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service. p. 4. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e Roth, David M; Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (November 16, 2012). "Tropical Cyclone Rainfall Point Maxima". Tropical Cyclone Point Maxima. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service. Retrieved December 7, 2012. 
  3. ^ Beven III, John L; National Hurricane Center (January 23, 2002). Hurricane Michelle 2001'' (Tropical Cyclone Report). United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
  4. ^ Rappaport, Edward N; National Hurricane Center (November 26, 1995). Hurricane Erin 1995'' (Preliminary Report). United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
  5. ^ Beven III, John L; Stewart, Stacey R; National Hurricane Center (February 8, 2009). Tropical Storm Fay 2008'' (Tropical Cyclone Report). United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
  6. ^ Pasch, Richard J; Kimberlain, Todd B; Stewart, Stacey R; National Hurricane Center (November 18, 1999). Hurricane Floyd 1999'' (Preliminary Report). United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service. Retrieved June 10, 2012.
  7. ^ "World Climate". Retrieved November 8, 2010. 

Further reading

  • Chenoweth, Michael (1998). "The Early 19th Century Climate of the Bahamas and a Comparison with 20th Century Averages". Climatic Change 40 (3–4): 577–603.  
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