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NATURE - Testing the resilience of Pacific Island People

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Much has been said about rising sea levels and predicted impacts on low lying Pacific Island communities.As Pacific islanders we need to be more informed about what directly affects us and our livelihoods. The population of the Pacific islands is estimated to be over 8.6 million people, most of which are coastal dwelling and are therefore dependant on the ocean and its resources. So it is vital that we understand our ocean.

The Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), hosts the South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project alongside other initiatives aimed at improving our scientific knowledge of ocean and island ecosystems for the sustainable management of natural resources.

This project measures sea levels and monitors the climate in 12 Pacific Island countries. Its main goal is to collect data and provide information to develop an accurate understanding of sea level and to develop ways to make such scientific data available to Pacific Island countries.

More importantly, this project is at the forefront of helping to improve our understanding of our ocean and its impacts on our region, our shores, our resources and our future. Pacific Island Leaders first voiced their concern about global warming and rising sea levels at the 1988 Pacific Island Forum Meeting in Tonga. The government of Australia responded to these concerns and embarked on developing the South Pacific Sea Level Project with Pacific partners and countries. Three years later the South Pacific Sea Level Project was ready to begin.

The project is administered and funded through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) which highlights the importance of the long term commitment and investment of the Australian government to long term data collection in our region. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is the managing director of the project and draws on specialist expertise of the National Tidal Centre (NTC) and Geoscience Australia.(GA). The project is hosted by SOPAC.
Eighteen years and 12 Pacific Island countries later, the South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project has provided an accurate data set used not only by the region but also by authors of the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) in its reporting on the status of global climate change.

In each of the project countries a tide gauge can be seen on the main wharf. This measures sea level, sea surface temperature, wind speed and direction and atmospheric pressure 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. The information collected is transmitted via satellite to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology where it is analyzed and made available to the public through the project website http://www.bom.gov.au/pacificsealevel/.external  link

We are learning about the changes of regional sea levels with an unprecedented accuracy. Because we know that land movement can cause uncertainty in determining absolute sea level, a continuous global positioning system network (CGPS) has also been installed and linked to the tide gauges to measure vertical and horizontal earth movements. All of this plays an important role towards calculating absolute sea levels.

Six monthly reports containing an analysis of data collected in every country, tide prediction calendars, project brochures and fact sheets are provided to each participating country. SOPAC also uses data from this project to help undertake work such as mapping the ocean floor and monitor coastal vulnerability.

This information is vitally important for navigators, meteorologists and other weather professionals, also, environment and coastal planners, surveyors and engineers.

The ultimate goal of the project is to provide environmental information to the Pacific Island Countries and regional partners that can be applied to managing coastal environments and to enable countries to respond to extreme weather conditions. The applications are numerous and help us to make better decisions regarding the impact on human health, water resources and marine biodiversity.

• Participating Countries: Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
• SOPAC is an intergovernmental organization that focuses on providing assistance to its member countries in
three key programme areas: Ocean and Islands Programme, Community Lifelines Programme and Community Risk
• The Mariana Trench in the western North Pacific is 10,911 metres deep and is the deepest point in the Pacific Ocean
as well as the world. Its depth is more than the height of Mt. Everest. The Pacific Ocean is also the largest, deepest
and the oldest ocean in the world.

For more information- http://www.bom.gov.au/pacificsealevel/.external  link
Project contacts: Tagaloa Cooper - (Regional Communications & Coordination Advisor) This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 May 2010 14:55  


The very latest mapping technology is being used in the Nadi and Ba basins to produce extremely detailed digital terrain models as part of an ongoing effort to lessen the effects of floods in the area.

For the last two weeks an Island Hoppers helicopter fitted with Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) equipment has flown over the Nadi area scanning the ground with near infrared light to get the most detailed topographical data of the area ever recorded.

According to Litea Biukoto, from the Disaster Reduction Programme at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SPC SOPAC), having high resolution topographical information is essential for  producing detailed floodplain maps that can help the National Disaster Management Office, the Nadi Town Council, and other government agencies to plan development in the floodplain, provide guidance for infrastructure and building designs and improve flood preparedness and response.