Last Interglacial sea level: how high, how fast and did it wiggle?!?!

Members from GRG team (Jody Webster, Kelsey Sanborn, Tommy Fellowes) have just about completed a fascinating 4 weeks of field work with long time GRG collaborator Assistant Professor Andrea Dutton (University of Florida) and her student (Caroline Quanbeck) investigating the subaerial fossil reef deposits along the Western Australian coast. These deposits were formed by coral reefs that grew when sea level was higher during the Last Interglacial Period (~125,000 years ago). GRG collaborator Dr Mick O’Leary from Curtin University was also able to join us for a couple of days giving Jody and Andrea a wonderful tour of some of the key fossil reef sections.

This is part of a large National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project to Andrea to understand global sea level change during the Last Interglacial Period (~125,000 years ago) – how high, how fast, and did sea level oscillate during this period?This project is incredibly timely given grave concerns about the future stability of the polar ice sheets and recent revised estimates of how high sea level may rise by 2100 (~ as much as 2 m according to a recent NOAA report) in the face of global warming.

It was an amazing adventure visiting some truly spectacular reef outcrops and coastline from Margaret River in the south to Ningarloo along the Cape Range to the north. The primary goal was to recover well-preserved fossil coral material using a powerful but portable, backpack drilling system, while the secondary goal was to fully describe and interpret the coralgal assemblage and facies changes in the reefs. Finally, we also had film crew with us who were shooting a documentary special for the US PBS Nova network.  In sum, it has been a great trip so far and hopefully Kelsey, Tommy, and Caroline can finish strong over the next couple of days. More to updates to follow!

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