Review

The Phanerozoic Record of Global Sea-Level Change

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Science  25 Nov 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5752, pp. 1293-1298
DOI: 10.1126/science.1116412

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Abstract

We review Phanerozoic sea-level changes [543 million years ago (Ma) to the present] on various time scales and present a new sea-level record for the past 100 million years (My). Long-term sea level peaked at 100 ± 50 meters during the Cretaceous, implying that ocean-crust production rates were much lower than previously inferred. Sea level mirrors oxygen isotope variations, reflecting ice-volume change on the 104- to 106-year scale, but a link between oxygen isotope and sea level on the 107-year scale must be due to temperature changes that we attribute to tectonically controlled carbon dioxide variations. Sea-level change has influenced phytoplankton evolution, ocean chemistry, and the loci of carbonate, organic carbon, and siliciclastic sediment burial. Over the past 100 My, sea-level changes reflect global climate evolution from a time of ephemeral Antarctic ice sheets (100 to 33 Ma), through a time of large ice sheets primarily in Antarctica (33 to 2.5 Ma), to a world with large Antarctic and large, variable Northern Hemisphere ice sheets (2.5 Ma to the present).

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