Geochemical Evidence for Quaternary Sea-level Changes

R. L. Edwards, K. B. Cutler, H. Cheng, C. D. Gallup

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

23 Scopus citations


Throughout the Quaternary, sea level has risen and fallen as continental ice sheets have waned and waxed. The main cause of sea-level change has been variation in the total volume of continental ice and resulting change in the fraction of the Earth’s surface H2O contained in the ocean. Today more than 97% of the Earth’s surface H2O is in the ocean and less than 2% is stored as ice in continental glaciers, with groundwater making up the bulk of the remainder. Of the total continental ice (ice above sea level),,80% is contained in the east Antarctic ice sheet, 10% in the west Antarctic ice sheet, and the final 10% in the Greenland ice sheet. If all continental ice were to melt, sea level would rise by,70 m. During the last glacial maximum (LGM), sea level was,125 m lower than present, equivalent to 3% more surface H2O stored as continental ice. Because of its relationship to continental ice volume, an accurate Quaternary sea-level curve has been a long-term goal of scientists interested in ice-age cycles and their causes. Although sea level is closely related to continental ice volume, it is also a function of other variables, most notably isostatic effects (see Clark et al. (1978) and review of Peltier (1998) and references therein). Sea-level change can be divided into a eustatic component, which depends only on shifts in the mass of H2O between continental ice and the ocean, and an isostatic component, which is site specific and is a function of.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oceans and Marine Geochemistry
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9780080548074
ISBN (Print)9780080437514
StatePublished - Dec 4 2003

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


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