Drowning of the - 150 m reef off Hawaii: A casualty of global meltwater pulse 1A?

Jody M. Webster, David A. Clague, Kristin Riker-Coleman, Christina Gallup, Juan C. Braga, Donald Potts, James G. Moore, Edward L. Winterer, Charles K. Paull

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


We present evidence that the drowning of the - 150 m coral reef around Hawaii was caused by rapid sea-level rise associated with meltwater pulse 1A (MWP-1A) during the last deglaciation. New U/Th and 14C accelerator mass spectrometry dates, combined with reinterpretation of existing radiometric dates, constrain the age of the coral reef to 15.2-14.7 ka (U/Th age), indicating that reef growth persisted for 4.3 k.y. following the end of the Last Glacial Maximum at 19 ka. The drowning age of the reef is roughly synchronous with the onset of MWP-1A between 14.7 and 14.2 ka. Dates from coralline algal material range from 14 to 10 cal ka (calibrated radiocarbon age), 1-4 k.y. younger than the coral ages. A paleoenvironmental reconstruction incorporating all available radiometric dates, high-resolution bathymetry, dive observations, and coralgal paleobathymetry data indicates a dramatic rise in sea level around Hawaii ca. 14.7 ka. Paleowater depths over the reef crest increased rapidly above a critical depth (30-40 m), drowning the shallow reef-building Porites corals and causing a shift to deepwater coralline algal growth, preserved as a crust on the drowned reef crest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-252
Number of pages4
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2004


  • Coral reef drowning
  • Deglaciation
  • Hawaii
  • Meltwater pulse 1A


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