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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Long, A.J., Barlow, N.L.M., Gehrels, W.R., Saher, M.H., Woodworth, P.L., Scaife, R.G., Brain, M.J. & Cahill, N. Contrasting records of sea-level change in the eastern and western North Atlantic during the last 300 years. Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 2014;388:110-122.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

We present a new 300-year sea-level reconstruction from a salt marsh on the Isle of Wight (central English Channel, UK) that we compare to other salt-marsh and long tide-gauge records to examine spatial and temporal variability in sea-level change in the North Atlantic. Our new reconstruction identifies an overall rise in relative sea level (RSL) of c. 0.30 m since the start of the eighteenth century at a rate of . Error-in-variables changepoint analysis indicates that there is no statistically significant deviation from a constant rate within the dataset. The reconstruction is broadly comparable to other tide-gauge and salt-marsh records from the European Atlantic, demonstrating coherence in sea level in this region over the last 150–300 years. In contrast, we identify significant differences in the rate and timing of RSL with records from the east coast of North America. The absence of a strong late 19th/early 20th century RSL acceleration contrasts with that recorded in salt marsh sediments along the eastern USA coastline, in particular in a well-dated and precise sea-level reconstruction from North Carolina. This suggests that this part of the North Carolina sea level record represents a regionally specific sea level acceleration. This is significant because the North Carolina record has been used as if it were globally representative within semi-empirical parameterisations of past and future sea-level change. We conclude that regional-scale differences of sea-level change highlight the value of using several, regionally representative RSL records when calibrating and testing semi-empirical models of sea level against palaeo-records. This is because by using records that potentially over-estimate sea-level rise in the past such models risk over-estimating sea-level rise in the future.

Department of Geography