The Northern Mariana Islands, together with Guam to the south, compose the Mariana Islands. The southern islands are limestone, with level terraces and fringing coral reefs. The northern islands are volcanic, with active volcanoes on Anatahan, Pagan and Agrihan. The volcano on Agrihan has the highest elevation at 3,166 feet (965 m). Anatahan Volcano is a small volcanic island 80 miles (130 km) north of Saipan. It is about 6 miles (10 km) long and 2 miles (3 km) wide. Anatahan began erupting suddenly from its east crater on May 10, 2003, at about 6 p.m. It has since alternated between eruptive and calm periods. On April 6, 2005, approximately 1,800,000 cubic feet (50,970 m3) of ash and rock were ejected, causing a large, black cloud to drift south over Saipan and Tinian.
The islands have a tropical marine climate moderated by seasonal northeast trade winds. There is little seasonal temperature variation. The dry season runs from December to June, and the rainy season from July to November and can include typhoons. The Guinness Book of World Records has cited Saipan as having the most equable temperature in the world
The Northern Mariana Islands, officially the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), is one of the two insular area Commonwealths of the United States of America, the other being Puerto Rico. Both can also be classified as unincorporated, organized territories of the United States.
Occupying a strategic region of the western Pacific Ocean, it consists of 15 islands about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines. The United States Census Bureau reports the total land area of all islands as 179.01 square miles (463.63 km2).
The Northern Mariana Islands have a population of 53,883 (2010 census). More than 90% of the population lives on the island of Saipan. Of the fourteen other islands, only two — Tinian and Rota — are inhabited.
The Commonwealth's center of government is in the village of Capital Hill on Saipan. As the island is governed as a single municipality, most publications name Saipan as the Commonwealth's capital.
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