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Launch of third phase of South Pacific sea level and climate monitoring project.



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MEDIA RELEASE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS SENATOR THE HON KAY PATTERSON

AA - 23 Jun 2001

LAUNCH OF THIRD PHASE OF SOUTH PACIFIC SEA LEVEL AND CLIMATE MONITORING PROJECT

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Kay Patterson, launched today in Samoa the first of twelve Continuous Global Positioning Systems (CGPS) for Pacific Island Countries, as part of a $24 million program over 14 years funded by the Australian Government through AusAID.

The CGPS is an early warning system linked to a tide gauge to help Pacific Island countries monitor and respond to any changes to sea level and climate as the result of global warming and greenhouse effects. This makes the Pacific region the first group in the world to measure changes in sea level with an absolute degree of accuracy.

Senator Patterson was speaking at a ceremony in Apia, Samoa, to mark the beginning of the third phase of the South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project

Senator Patterson said that some Pacific Island countries are only 2 metres above the sea, and others could potentially lose their productive coastal areas and ecosystems if sea levels rise significantly. She said that the project will monitor the situation and provide much needed information on sea level movements.

"To deal with the issues of climate variability and the potential impact of global warming Pacific Island Countries need better data collection and analysis so as to assist governments to develop policies and properly plan for any problems associated with climate change and sea level rise."

"The challenge of measuring sea level changes is made very difficult when factors like movements of the earth’s crust, earthquakes, tides and volcanic

 

activities all have to be taken into account. The CGPS, linked to the tide gauge, will be used to determine the absolute sea level changes in individual Pacific Island Countries."

"In the past, water levels were measured to a level of precision plus or minus 10 mm, using conventional tide gauges. This was suitable for monitoring changes to sea level due to storm surges, tsunamis and other natural hazards. But to look at the very small and gradual changes in water levels caused by global warming and greenhouse gases, conventional gauges were not sensitive enough."

"Using 'state of the art’ technology, improved sensors, digital recording and additional meteorological inputs, ocean levels can now be monitored with an accuracy of better than plus or minus 1 mm. This is required as the present estimate of global sea level rise is 1.5 mm per year."

Other stations linked to the tide gauges will be installed in Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, and Nauru within this year and 2002.

As the data is gathered by each monitoring station, it will be sent to the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group (AUSLIG) in Canberra, where the scientists will analyse the data and information. AUSLIG will also work closely with National Tidal Facility Australia (NTFA) at the Flinders University, Adelaide who are responsible for the tide gauge stations measuring relative sea level changes and then calculate the absolute sea level trends in the region..

The results will be fed back to scientists and government planners in each Pacific Islands countries and regional organizations. The CGPS stations will have a life of more than 20 years to support this work and the pacific governments, ensuring a continuous flow of sea level and climatic information to the governments and international community over that period.

The South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project-Phase III is currently managed by the Australian Marine Science and Technology Ltd (AMSAT) and being coordinated by a committee comprising of the Forum Secretariat, South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), South Pacific Applied Geosciences Commission (SOPAC), selected Forum Countries, AusAID and AMSAT.

For technical information on the project, please contact:

Mr Robert Harriss, Project Manager, Australian Marine Science & Technology (AMSAT), Canberra, Australia. Phone: 612-6281 8450; fax: 612- 6281 8436 ; email: amsat@attglobal.net ( For overall management of the Project)

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Mr Bob Twilley (and Steve Yates), GPS Network Manager, AUSLIG, Department of Industry, Science and Resources, Canberra, Australia. ●

Phone: 612-6201 4201; Fax 612-6201 4366; email:auslig@auslig.gov.au ( For CGPS technical information and how it operates) ●