Monitoring Sea levels in the South Pacific

Monitoring Sea levels in the South Pacific

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The potential impacts of the Greenhouse Effect on climate and sea levels in the South Pacific will be better understood thanks to a $24 million project funded over 14 years by the Australian Government through AusAID, called the South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project.

As part of the project’s third phase, 12 Continuous Global Positioning System (CGPS) stations are being established in the South Pacific to assist with the long term monitoring of absolute sea levels. The CGPS network will very accurately measure both vertical and horizontal movements and, when analysed with tide gauge data, will assist in determining absolute sea level variation.

The most recent CGPS station was opened on Manus Island (the largest island in the Admiralties Group, and part of Papua New Guinea’s Manus Province) on 3 May 2002 by Geoscience Australia representative, Bob Twilley, pictured above right.

The South Pacific region is the first in the world to address absolute sea level monitoring and the information will contribute immensely to improving our understanding of global warming and sea level rise. All information from the South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project is being used to monitor and assess the potential impacts of the Greenhouse Effect on climate and sea levels in the Pacific.

Phase I of the project commenced in 1991 with sophisticated acoustic tide gauges placed in 12 countries throughout the South pacific Region to form the SEAFRAME Network.

Phase II saw the continued collection and analysis of tidal data from the tide gauge stations, aimed at providing a better understanding of the link between sea level and climate variability and its impact on the communities.

In addition to establishing the CGPS, Phase III also involves greater hands-on participation by the 12 participating countries, and is providing training programs and institutional support as well as a number of higher education scholarships.

Information from the project can also contribute to air and maritime navigation, surveying and land management, GIS development, fisheries and forestry, integrated coastal management, weather forecasting, water management, education and training.