Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute with its headquarters in Panama City is a unit of the Smithsonian Institution. The institute has a research facility at Barro Colorado Island which includes a seismic sensor that was installed in 2006.
The seismic monitoring station at Barro Calorado, has detected an unusual signal which is caused by waves in Lake Gatun. The lake is the reservoir which forms the Panama Canal channel. The intriguing wave pattern was found at an intermediate frequency by scientists at Barro Colorado.
The pattern was believed to be formed by standing waves in Lake Gatun. These standing waves also known as seiches were then studied by installing water level detection meters along the shoreline. The scientists were then able to confirm that changes in the water level of the lake correspond to the unusual seismic signal.
The Barro Colorado seismic monitoring station is a collaboration between the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the University of Panama and STRI. The need for improved earthquake and tsunami monitoring and prediction caused a $37.5 million US presidential initiative to set up more than 150 sensors around the world. The Barro Colorado sensor is part of this effort.