Scientists building network to track sea level rise

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute/Sergio Dos Santos This is the new platform at Bocas del Toro

Scientists are trying to get accurate figures on how fast the sea level is rising along the Caribbean coast. A new platform has been erected at Bocas del Toro to keep track of the levels. But first scientists had to establish that the sea floor was not sinking. So they set up concrete benchmarks on shore.

This is a project of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The institute has a research station at Bocas de Toro on Almirante Bay just south of eastern Costa Rica.

The speed and amount of sea level rise is critical for government and personal planning. Because the Earth is warming, scientists expect the sea to rise about a meter and a half by the end of the century. That’s about 59 inches. The sea level has risen about 200 feet since the end of the last ice age when large quantities of water were locked up in the ice.

There already was a platform with scientific instruments in the bay, but the research team constructed a replacement. The effort is part of a $100,000 research program paid for by a Smithsonian grant. Eventually the Panamá site will be connected electronically with other measuring stations operated by the Smithsonian, the institute said.

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