Asmat Geography

Climate and Geography

Asmat is located in the southwestern area of Papua, Indonesia. Its coast borders the Arafura Sea and it covers approximately 19,000 square kilometers of the western half of Island New Guinea. Daily temperatures range from 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) in the early morning to 92 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius) at noon. The Asmat area is humid year round. Much of the environment consists of alluvial swamp. Daily tides and periods of heavy rainfall result in muddy regions and impressive waterway systems.The muddy ground and swamp environment limit transportation options. People move around primarily by walking on raised walkways or by paddling in dugout canoes.

A hornbill and a dog eye each other on a raised walkway in Syuru. When this image was taken the tide was out and the soft muddy ground is visible. Photo by Julie Risser October, 2009

The Asmat environment supports wild boar, crocodiles, lizards, snakes, small marsupials, flying squirrels, flying foxes, shellfish, and turtles. Bird populations include the hornbill king cockatoo, crown pigeon, and bird of paradise.

As with other areas of the Pacific, the Asmat region is experiencing rising water levels caused by global climate change. One way to address this situation is to build structures higher off the ground. The Crosier Fathers and Brothers are doing just that for their new monastery buildings in Agats. However, raising existing structures is not viable. During the months of December and January water now seeps up into buildings and can cause significant damage as well as inconvenience.