Past sea level changes may provide clues for the future

February 28, 2018, University of Queensland
Past sea level changes may provide clues for the future
Emergent fossil reef flat with lower living coral microatoll in foreground, Gore Island, Far North Great Barrier Reef. Credit: University of Queensland

Sea level variations on the Great Barrier Reef linked to global temperature changes thousands of years ago may help predict future changes, a new University of Queensland study has revealed.

With millions of people around the world living close to coastlines, rising sea levels are a topic of significant concern, but predicting changes has been complex and difficult.

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences researcher Dr. Nicole Leonard said researchers used high-precision uranium thorium dating techniques developed at UQ to reconstruct sea levels during the recent geological Holocene period.

"Our study provided a sea level history for the tectonically stable Great Barrier Reef by comparing the elevation of modern corals to 94 sub-fossil corals," Dr. Leonard said.

"We found that the sea level varied between 0.2-0.4 metres during distinct periods over the past 6000 years.

"The study also revealed that sea level lowering events occurred at the same time as colder Pacific sea surface temperatures, rapid global cooling events and glacial advances."

The research team concluded the pace and magnitude of sea level changes suggested that it was responding to global temperature changes in conjunction with regional climate.

Live coral microatoll at Haggerstone Island, Far North Great Barrier Reef Credit: University of Queensland

The findings have important implications for improving the understanding of sea level response to future global climate change predictions.

"As well as the major implications to future modelling efforts, refining the sea level history of the Great Barrier Reef was also important to understand past ecological, archaeological and sedimentary records at coastal locations," Dr. Leonard said.

The study, involving researchers from UQ's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and School of Biological Sciences, is published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Explore further: Great Barrier Reef almost drowned; climate implications

More information: N.D. Leonard et al. New evidence for "far-field" Holocene sea level oscillations and links to global climate records, Earth and Planetary Science Letters (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2018.02.008

Related Stories

Great Barrier Reef almost drowned; climate implications

January 6, 2017

An analysis of the Great Barrier Reef during a time prior to it becoming the modern shallow reef has found the World Heritage Listed 'wonder' almost drowned because of rapid sea-level rise from melting glaciers and polar ...

Recommended for you

Meteorite source in asteroid belt not a single debris field

February 17, 2019

A new study published online in Meteoritics and Planetary Science finds that our most common meteorites, those known as L chondrites, come from at least two different debris fields in the asteroid belt. The belt contains ...

Diagnosing 'art acne' in Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings

February 17, 2019

Even Georgia O'Keeffe noticed the pin-sized blisters bubbling on the surface of her paintings. For decades, conservationists and scholars assumed these tiny protrusions were grains of sand, kicked up from the New Mexico desert ...

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.