Rohling, E.J., Fenton, M., Jorissen, F.J., Bertrand, P., Ganssen, G. and Caulet, J.P.
Letters to Nature: Magnitudes of sea-level lowstands of the past 500,000 years.
Nature, 394, (6689), . (doi:10.1038/28134).
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Existing techniques for estimating natural fluctuations of sea level and global ice-volume from the recent geological past exploit fossil coral-reef terraces or oxygen-isotope records from benthic foraminifera. Fossil reefs reveal the magnitude of sea-level peaks (highstands) of the past million years, but fail to produce significant values for minima (lowstands) before the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) about 20,000 years ago, a time at which sea level was about 120 m lower than it is today1, 2, 3, 4. The isotope method provides a continuous sea-level record for the past 140,000 years (ref. 5) (calibrated with fossil-reef data6), but the realistic uncertainty in the sea-level estimates is around 20 m. Here we present improved lowstand estimates—extending the record back to 500,000 years before present—using an independent method based on combining evidence of extreme high-salinity conditions in the glacial Red Sea with a simple hydraulic control model of water flow through the Strait of Bab-el-Mandab, which links the Red Sea to the open ocean. We find that the world can glaciate more intensely than during the LGM by up to an additional 20-m lowering of global sea-level. Such a 20-m difference is equivalent to a change in global ice-volume of the order of today's Greenland and West Antarctic ice-sheets.
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