Quaternary Sea-Level History from the US Atlantic Coastal Plain

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Robert K Poirier, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Department of Earth and Environmental Science, Troy, NY, United States; US Geological Survey, Eastern Geology and Paleoclimate Science Center, Reston, VA, United States, Thomas M Cronin, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia, USA, VA, United States, Miriam E Katz, Rensselaer Polytechnic Inst., Troy, NY, United States, James V Browning, Rutgers Univ, Piscataway, NJ, United States, Kenneth G Miller, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, United States and Debra A Willard, USGS, Baltimore, MD, United States
Analyses of emerged Quaternary paleo-shorelines and marine deposits aid in the reconstruction of environmental conditions and variability surrounding recent ice volume and sea-level histories derived from oxygen isotope records. We present preliminary results from a project designed to analyze the age, elevation, and paleoclimate history of Quaternary sediments deposited during sea level highstands along the United States Atlantic Coastal Plain (ACP) from Maryland to Florida. Prior studies have shown that, depending on the region, ACP sediments correlate with past interglacial periods corresponding to Marine Isotope Stages (MIS) 5, 7, possibly 9, and 11. Stratigraphy, marine micropaleontology, and palynology indicate at least two major marine transgressive sequences on the Delmarva Peninsula in Virginia corresponding to MIS 5a and 11, the Nassawadox Formation and Accomack beds of the Omar Formation, respectively. These depositional sequences represent sea-level positions of approximately +10m and +15m, relative to today. Despite generally corresponding to glacio-eustatic sea levels of +5-9m for MIS 5a-e (Potter & Lambeck, 2003; Kopp et al., 2009), and of +6-13m for MIS 11 (Raymo & Mitrovica, 2012), the relative sea-level positions during both interglacial periods were likely affected by glacio-isostatic adjustment in the region. Corresponding marine units and paleo-shorelines, identified by pronounced inland scarps separated by intermittent terraces on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay, are likely from MIS 5, 7, and 11. Ostracode and foraminifera assemblages identify significant environmental variability within these transgressive interglacial deposits, likely driven by relatively minor, suborbital climatic and sea-level oscillations.