Sea level rises not yet detected in Cayman

| 25/09/2014

(CNS): The lands and survey department says there has been no significant movement of the sea level on either Grand Cayman or the Sister Islands. Despite two recent earthquakes and the very high tides experienced in the last few weeks, the local experts claim that no major geographical changes have taken place. With all low-lying islands like the Cayman Islands and coastal nations keeping an eye on ocean rises, officials from L&S said they were continuing to reassess mean sea level data as a priority and several tide gauges have been installed throughout the Islands. “This is a high-priority, long-term project,” added Rupert Vasquez, the L&S director.

The tide gauges measure the extent of the recent high tides and compare them to data from previous years. Data collected recently indicates that, whilst sea levels at high tide have been higher this month, there has been no discernible long-term upward or downward movement of the sea level of Grand Cayman or the Sister Islands.

The combination of high tides and two short earthquakes measuring over 5 on the Richter scale this month, focused attention on the issue of sea levels as well as landmass elevation and the possible connections between the two.

Both quakes were detected south of Grand Cayman on Wednesday, 3 September registering 5.1 and 5.2 on the earthquake measure Richter scale. L&S said there were no horizontal or vertical changes in position recorded for these Islands after the two events.

While Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) monitors quakes and other potential disaster it partners with L&S and other agencies regarding the science and geological impact.

Vasquez explained his department is responsible for the, “accurate and efficient land surveying in the Cayman Islands,” and the National Control Network forms the critical component of local infrastructure services. Data from the Cayman Islands’ Continuously Operating Reference Stations, the specialist tools used to measure geological shifts from the recent quakes was compared with data from Florida, Mexico and Jamaica. The results showed show no notable local differences detected before or after the earthquakes. In both cases, the differences measured in our geographic position varied by only a few inches and considered “normal”.

Vasquez said L&S staff members continue to conduct detailed investigations and intensive monitoring, following these occurrences.

The monitoring is largely out of public view as the experts use hundreds of ground-based monuments and four continuously-operating GPS /GNSS base stations all part of a wider Caribbean network. The data is collected in real-time, monitored and stored locally, then shared online with the international community through the United States National Geodetic Survey (NGS). 

Tectonic movement is a natural phenomenon, and the technology used by L&S is showing interesting movements. The monitor positioned on the roof of the new Government Administration Building in George Town indicates that the Cayman Islands is moving steadily but slightly towards the west, at less than half of an inch annually.

However, if sudden and unexpected tectonic plate movements occur they are detected by the monitors and shared with the American National Geodetic Survey, which compares the data across the western hemisphere.

For details on local earthquake monitoring, and to see the live graphs, charts and maps, visit:

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Sea level rising or not we cannot do anything to stop it so why so much discussion?

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually, it has been shown that islands with healthy fringing mangroves will continue to keep pace with sea level rise. Now if only….

  2. Anonymous says:

    MRCU should have at least 30 yearsof water level records, and certainly years of data prior to this years's minor wobbles.  L&S, HMCI, and MRCU should all be sharing their inter-department data better so that nobody has to look like a moron to the public…one would think.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yeh, it's very difficult to detect sea level rise when your head is buried in the sand way past the high water mark. While other countries in the region have over 20 years of tide data we have only 5 at best. Pure ignorance to say you can trend 5 years of data and come up with the conclusion of no sea level rise inCayman. Then again, probably not wise to report the cat is out of the bag, property prices might sink faster than sea level is rising, and someone may lose their cushy CS job to boot.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am not sure of how much of a database they have but if it is only a few years then they really cant talk about climate change. However if it is even a few years they can talk about cayman possibly sinking due to the earthquakes and I think the comments are made in that context, So in conclusion the recent earthquakes has not caused the island to sink. One would only imagine that for the island to sink it would take a very strong earthquake not the weak ones we recently got.

      • Anonymous says:

        Last time I checked we are not in a subduction zone so why might we be sinking due to an earthquake least our little pinnacle boke off due to a major shock? Then we would swiftly all have little to worry about. Shift the context to researching our island sinking due to seismic activity is kind of like doing an Easter egg hunt at Christmas, not probably you will find any. Seems like the real focus is not on monitoring tidal flux to find the real truth.

  4. Gut Check says:

    Markers right in front of my house confirm that the mean sea level has remained the same for at least the last 30 years.    

    I hope we aren't sinking a lot of money into this study.    

    • Anonymous says:

      Markers with accuracy out to the nearest foot or inches will not register, we are dealing with centimeters per year that over the long haul could equal meters

    • Anonymous says:

      Hell, we'll just pay you to look out at your markers every 30 years or so. 

  5. Anonymous says:

    No need to worry folks. It will be here soon enough. 

  6. Nicholas Robson says:
    Produced by The Cayman Institute for the Government of the Cayman Islands and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office
    The Cayman Islands are particularly vulnerable to the effects of global climate change on the surrounding sea surface. The islands do not appear to be subject to significant land movement, and sea surface levels around the islands are close to the global mean according to satellite telemetry, consequently forecast changes in mean global sea surface levels are likely to be realistic for the Cayman islands. The total mean global sea surface rise by 2100 estimated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment at between 0.18 and 0.59 metres is likely to be exceeded according to recent research, reaching at least 1 metre. The rate of sea surface rise, presently circa 3.1mm/year, may have increased at least threefold by 2100. These changes will result in beach erosion and the widespread destruction of mangroves, thus rendering the coastline even more vulnerable to flooding than at present.
    Forecast changes in the intensity and longevity of hurricanes and tropical storms will exacerbate the effects of sea surface rise. Associated storm surges may increase in magnitude, increasing beach erosion and in particular the erosion of coral reefs. Given the observed effects of coral bleaching probably related to periods when sea temperatures are higher than the mean, reefs may be particularly affected. The combination of rises in the sea surface and increases in the intensity and longevity of storms can only result in serious coastal erosion and flooding. Tsunamis will undoubtedly occur some time in the future, and higher sea surface levels will increase their impact, but their size and frequency cannot be forecast.
    Adaptation to these changes will be assisted by improvements in knowledge. There is an urgent need for more detailed information on the progress of relative sea level change. This should be provided by both ground and satellite measurement of sea levels and land movement. There is also an urgent need to determine whether or not the frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms is increasing and on what timescales. A detailed and systematic survey of the health of all coral reef areas around the islands is needed to identify trends and locate reefs that are at risk. The response of mangroves in the Cayman Islands to rates of relative sea level rise and likely future rates needs determination. With improved knowledge of the threats to the coastline, adaptation can be planned. A sustainable approach to coastal defence is probably the most effective in the long run, with planting of trees and shrubs that will trap sediment and disrupt waves. Revised planning laws for coastal development may be needed, and both water supply and sewage arrangements may need to be examined. Some changes in the pattern of tourist activity will be required.
    Notwithstanding the many problems which climate change will bring to the Cayman Islands, there are opportunities. The response of the islands may provide an exemplar for similar but more vulnerable or less developed small islands elsewhere in the world. The future may be gloomy, but there is much that can be done.


  7. Anonymous says:

    OK, fair enough…but in my humble opinion, something has happened, because even though the sea level is not as high as it was during the last full moon, it still appears tobe higher than it normally was before the last 2 earthquakes.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Should you trust your local yokal government official with reserved tickets the next time a hurrican hits, or the study of thousands of scientists. 

  9. Anonymous says:

    Measuring sea level rise is notoriously complex. The problems start when you try to separate the rise and fall of the land from variations in sea level itself, which can have many hidden causes. 

    Sea levels can change on account gravitational anomalies caused by preciptation on land as well as siltation on the seabed, water extraction from aquifers, volcanic activity, earthquakes, sea floor spreading and internal movements of the Earth's magma, along with changes in the shape of the sea floor itself.

    The Maldives are often held up as examples of islands that are soon to be inundated, but  the cause is the sinking of the land. There is a consensus that sea levels are rising by less than 2 mm per a year, yet half of this rise has causes other than melting ice.  I don't think canal lots in Cayman wll be submeged any time soon.  My impression is that the IPCC Climate scientists become more alarmist in proportion as their predictions fail. It is well known that global temeratures have been slowly dropping since 1999 and the area and volume of ice in Antarctica are at the highest levels since modern records began.  

    • Anonymous says:

      there is mssive evidence of sea levels flutuating in the past, even Grand Cayman has been submerged on 3 different events. there is clear evidence that sea levels were a lot lower during the last ice age, so whether natural or man made it is obvious sea levels will change.

      It always make me laugh when i hear people say Climate Change is all made up and its cycles. Well guess what, if there are cycles then there has to be climate change!

      Please source me one scientist that shows that climate never changes.

      • Anonymous says:

        We know there have been at least four glaciations and inter-glacial periods in the last 100,000 years alone.  You are correct that no historian refutes climate change.  If you check around, no rational person is in favour of man-made pollution either.  But, it's the arrogant and expedient junk-science extrapolation that localised man-made pollution and CO2 output, measured in parts per billion, are the sole causality factors in a complex biosphere that is eternally in motion and subject to exceedingly powerful celestial cycles we are only beginning to study and understand.  Obviously, there are no combustion-engined automobiles or coal-fired power plants altering the polar ice caps on Mars – yet we are orbitting subjects of the same star that is 330,000 times the mass of our tiny planet. 

      • Anonymous says:

        You are making the mistake of using common sense when discussing global warming/climate change. Its now been exposed and a verifiable fact that the earth has actually been cooling since 1994. So global warming was re-branded as “Climate Change”, to insure taxation on carbon / every form of energy consumption, including farming, all forms of transportation would be subject to a global tax. Poorer countries of course also benefit from this via reparations and lawsuits on richer countries under the premise that we have cause their deserts, famine and lowered their sea levels etc etc etc..

        As such you would not be able to source a scientist that can demonstrate that:

        a) if man didn’t exist, the temperature and climate of the earth would be any different than it is today.

        b) proving that global warming exists and that it is due to man via the “scientific method” (.i.e that it is falsifiable). What you have here is a bunch of (very well funded groups researching global warming/climate change via taxes and government) so called scientist that came to a “consensus” since there is no empirical evidence nor proof that man is directly responsible or even contributing to the globe warming or changing the climate.

        c)any fluctuations in the *current climate* and temperature and any different than the cyclic historical patterns in climate changes evidenced in geological studies.

        It is interesting however that we have never been able to stop a rain cloud from forming, but somehow the perpetrators of global warming and climate change think they can stop this from happening, “if we tax people enough”. So basically we can control the atmosphere, via taxation, carbon credits, make you pay .05 cents for your Plastic Bags at the grocery store…… and yes, plant a few more trees….

    • Anonymous says:

      Totally right.  The world should not have to worry about tinpot places with a handful of citizens.  If people choose to live in tiny, flat islands and not move when it is necessary that is their problem and they should not make it ours.

    • Anonymous says:

      09.49  Error correction: the Maldives are rising, so 'their' sea level is dropping. My mistake, and apologies for misleading info.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Any4 year old can visit the iron shore and see if the sea is higher or lower

    that said i bet they checked at the same time everyday and wondered what was happening