Quaternary Climates and Sea Levels of the U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain

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Science  16 Jan 1981:
Vol. 211, Issue 4479, pp. 233-240
DOI: 10.1126/science.211.4479.233


Uranium-series dating of corals from marine deposits of the U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain coupled with paleoclimatic reconstructions based on ostracode (marine) and pollen (continent) data document at least five relatively warm intervals during the last 500,000 years. On the basis of multiple paleoenvironmental criteria, we determined relative sea level positions during the warm intervals, relative to present mean sea level, were 7 ± 5 meters at 188,000 years ago, 7.5 ± 1.5 meters at 120,000 years ago, 6.5 ± 3.5 meters at 94,000 years ago, and 7 ± 3 meters at 72,000 years ago. The composite sea level chronology for the Atlantic Coastal Plain is inconsistent with independent estimates of eustatic sea level positions during interglacial intervals of the last 200,000 years. Hydroisostatic adjustment from glacial-interglacial sea level fluctuations, lithospheric flexure, and isostatic uplift from sediment unloading due to erosion provide possible mechanisms to account for the discrepancies. Alternatively, current eustatic sea level estimates for the middle and late Quaternary may require revision.