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Testing glacial isostatic adjustment models of last-interglacial sea level history in the Bahamas and Bermuda

March 2, 2020

Part of the spatial variation in the apparent sea-level record of the last interglacial (LIG) period is due to the diverse response of coastlines to glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) processes, particularly where coastlines were close to the Laurentide Ice Sheet during the past two glacial periods. We tested modeled LIG paleo-sea levels on New Providence Island (NPI), Bahamas and Bermuda by investigating emergent coral patch reefs and oolitic/peloidal beach deposits. Corals with closed-system histories collected from patch reefs on NPI have ages of 128-118 ka and ooids/peloids from beach ridges have closed-system ages of 128-116 ka. Elevations of patch reefs indicate a LIG paleo-sea level of at least ∼7 m to ∼9 m above present. Beach ridge sediments indicate paleo-sea levels of ∼5 m to ∼14 m (assuming subsidence, ∼7 m to ∼16 m) above present during the LIG. Some, though not all of these measurements are in good agreement with GIA models of paleo-sea level that have been simulated for the Bahamas. On Bermuda, corals with closed-system histories collected from marine deposits have ages of 126-114 ka. Although coral-bearing marine deposits on Bermuda lack the precise indication of paleo-sea level provided by patch reefs and oolitic beach ridges, these sediments nevertheless provide at least a first-order estimate of paleo-sea level. Paleo-sea level records on Bermuda are consistently lower (∼2 m to ∼7 m) than what GIA models simulate for the LIG. The reason for the reasonable agreement with models for the Bahamas and poor agreement for Bermuda is not understood, but needs further investigation in light of the probability of a higher sea level in the near future.

Publication Year 2020
Title Testing glacial isostatic adjustment models of last-interglacial sea level history in the Bahamas and Bermuda
DOI 10.1016/j.quascirev.2020.106212
Authors Daniel R. Muhs, Kathleen R. Simmons, R. Randall Schumann, Eugene S. Schweig, Mark P. Rowe
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Quaternary Science Reviews
Index ID 70211218
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center