Common Era Sea-Level Change

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 11:35 AM
Ben Horton, Rutgers University, Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, New Brunswick, NJ, United States, Andrew Kemp, Tufts University, Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Medford, MA, United States and Robert E Kopp III, Rutgers University New Brunswick, New Brunswick, NJ, United States
The Atlantic coast of North America provides a sedimentary record of Common Era sea levels with the resolution to identify the mechanisms that cause spatial variability in sea-level rise. This coast has a small tidal range, improving the precision of sea-level reconstructions. Coastal subsidence (from glacial isostatic adjustment, GIA) creates accommodation space that is filled by salt-marsh peat and preserves accurate and precise sea-level indicators and abundant material for radiocarbon dating. In addition, the western North Atlantic Ocean is sensitive to spatial variability in sea-level change, because of static equilibrium effects from melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet, ocean circulation and wind-driven variability in the Gulf Stream and GIA induced land-level change from ongoing collapse of Laurentide forbuldge.

We reveal three distinct patters in sea-level during the Common Era along the North American Atlantic coast, likely linked to wind-driven changes in the Gulf Stream: (1) Florida, sea level is essentially flat, with the record dominated by long-term geological processes; (2) North Carolina, sea level falls to a minimum near the beginning of the second millennium, climbing to an early Little Ice Age maximum in the fifteenth century, and then declining through most of the nineteenth century; and (3) New Jersey, a sea-level maximum around 900 CE, a sea-level minimum around 1500 CE, and a long-term sea-level rise through the second half of the second millennium.

We combine the salt-marsh data from North American Atlantic coast with tide-gauge records and lower resolution proxies from the northern and southern hemispheres. We apply a noisy-input Gaussian process spatio-temporal modeling framework, which identifies a long-term falling global mean sea-level (GMSL), interrupted in the middle of the 19th century by an acceleration yielding a 20th century rate of rise extremely likely (probability P = 0:95) faster than any previous century in the Common Era.