MAJURO, Republic of Marshall Islands—A team from the Pacific Community—formerly known as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community—is deploying oceanographic instruments along the lagoon and ocean shoreline in numerous locations throughout Majuro atoll.
The instruments will record wave data in the area over the next 12 months to better prepare the atoll for the impacts of climate change.
The SPC team is being supported by technical staff from the Republic of Marshall Islands Environmental Protection Authority.
The deployment is a key milestone in SPC’s Integrated Coastal Risk Management Project, which is part of the World Bank-funded Pacific Resilience Project Phase II.
Moriana Phillip, general manager of the RMI EPA, said the collected data will be valuable to EPA officers and other government agencies. “More importantly, it will directly benefit the coastal residents in Majuro. As we monitor shoreline changes, and anticipate rising sea level and growing demand for coastal and property protection, this information will help to better predict coastal flooding, and strengthen coastal resilience.”
Waves are one of the main contributors to coastal flooding in low-lying island environments. Tropical cyclones, large swells generated by far away storms, seasonal weather patterns, and inter-annual weather phenomenon such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation all contribute to regional wave patterns.
SPC’s oceanographer, Dr. Moritz Wandres, noted the importance of field data collection. “We have numerical models [that] give us a sense of what we think is happening, but with accurate observations we can validate our models and provide more accurate data for decision making in coastal risk management.”
Grant Bilyard, who is working as the PREP II advisor for the Marshall Islands Ministry of Works, Infrastructure and Utilities, echoed this. “Studies like these are crucial for the proper design of coastal structures. This project will increase the understanding of current and future coastal risk and help the government prioritize future investments, and deliver targeted coastal protection investments.”
The primary challenge faced by the project are the waves and currents being studied. Instruments need to be installed in areas exposed to large waves and strong currents such as the shipping channel and the northeast of Djarrit. In these areas, the current is too strong for recreational diving. The local expertise and resources of RMI EPA are essential to ensure the deployment is done safely and efficiently.
PREP II was scheduled to be officially launched last Tuesday, June 5; however, technical work has already begun. A second team of SPC ocean experts is currently installing temporary tide gauges at the Majuro Uliga wharf. The team is also establishing georeferenced benchmarks and a tide datum with support of the Marshall Islands Lands and Survey Department.
“Most places in the Pacific are referenced to a local chart datum which makes it hard to work with on a global system. We need to first establish benchmarks that can be linked to an international reference system,” said Salesh Kumar, hydrographic surveyor at SPC.
Tony Mellen, PREP II project manager at the Marshall Islands Ministry of Finance, believes that the project will make a significant impact in RMI by building the capacity of government agencies to adapt to climate change, reducing disaster risk, and identifying priorities for investment.
“With PREP II we are aiming at improving early warning systems and reducing risk of climate change effects and coastal hazards through smart investments in shoreline protection,” said Mellen. “Communities exposed to erosion, cyclones, storm surges, king tides, and sea level rise, will benefit from the project through reduced risk of damage to infrastructure in the coastal zone, as a result the Marshall Islands population and general economy will benefit from the project.”
Fieldwork took place in Majuro. (PR)