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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Barlow, N.L.M., McClymont, E.L., Whitehouse, P.L., Stokes, C.R., Jamieson, S.S.R., Woodroffe, S.A., Bentley, M.J., Callard, S.L., Ó Cofaigh, C., Evans, D.J.A., Horrocks, J.R., Lloyd, J.M., Long, A.J., Margold, M., Roberts, D.H. & Sanchez-Montes, M.L. Lack of evidence for a substantial sea-level fluctuation within the Last Interglacial. Nature Geoscience. 2018;11:627-634.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

During the Last Interglacial, global mean sea level reached approximately 6 to 9 m above the present level. This period of high sea level may have been punctuated by a fall of more than 4 m, but a cause for such a widespread sea-level fall has been elusive. Reconstructions of global mean sea level account for solid Earth processes and so the rapid growth and decay of ice sheets is the most obvious explanation for the sea-level fluctuation. Here, we synthesize published geomorphological and stratigraphic indicators from the Last Interglacial, and find no evidence for ice-sheet regrowth within the warm interglacial climate. We also identify uncertainties in the interpretation of local relative sea-level data that underpin the reconstructions of global mean sea level. Given this uncertainty, and taking into account our inability to identify any plausible processes that would cause global sea level to fall by 4 m during warm climate conditions, we question the occurrence of a rapid sea-level fluctuation within the Last Interglacial. We therefore recommend caution in interpreting the high rates of global mean sea-level rise in excess of 3 to 7 m per 1,000 years that have been proposed for the period following the Last Interglacial sea-level lowstand.

Department of Geography