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STUDIES IN GEOPHYSICS Sea-Level Change Geophysics Study Committee Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Resources National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1990
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NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Frank Press is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engi- neers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of-Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Samuel O. Thier is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and of advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Frank Press and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. Support for the Geophysics Study Committee was provided by the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Sea-level change / Geophysics Study Committee, Commission on Physical Sciences and Resources, National Research Council. p. cm. (Studies in geophysics) Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 0-309-04039-6 1. Sea level. I. Geophysics Research Forum (U.S.). Geophysics Study Committee. II. Series. 55 1.4'58 dc20 Copyright @) 1990 by the National Academy of Sciences 90-5839 CIP No part of this book may be reporoduced by any mechanical, photographic, or electronic process, or in the form of a phonographic recording, nor may it be stored in a retrieval system, transmitted, or otherwise copied for public or private use, without written permission from the publisher, except for the purposes of official use by the United States Government. Printed in the United States of America
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Pane! on Sea-Leve} Change ROGER R. REVELLE, University of California, San Diego, Chairman TIM P. BARNETT, Scripps Institution of Oceanography ERIC J. BARRON, Pennsylvania State University ARTHUR L. BLOOM, Cornell University NICHOLAS CHRISTIE-BLICK, Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory C. G. A. HARRISON, University of Miami WILLIAM W. HAY, University of Colorado ROBLEY K. MATTHEWS, Brown University MARK F. MEIER, University of Colorado WALTER H. MUNK, University of California, San Diego W. RICHARD PELTIER, University of Toronto DEAN ROEMMICH, Scripps Institution of Oceanography W. STURGES, Florida State University ERIC T. SUNDQUIST, U.S. Geological Survey KEITH R. THOMPSON, Dalhousie University STARLEY L. THOMPSON, National Center for Atmospheric Research . . .
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Geophysics Study Committee BYRON D. TAPLEY, University of Texas, Chairman RICHARD T. BARBER, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute ROBIN BRETT, U.S. Geological Survey RALPH J. CICERONE, University of California, Irvine tRANA A. FINE, University of Miami LYNN W. GELHAR, Massachusetts Institute of Technology *ARNOLD L. GORDON, Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory *MARK F. MEIER, University of Colorado T NORMAN F. NESS, University of Delaware *THOMAS A. POTEMRA, Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University T GEORGE C. REID, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration JOANNE SIMPSON, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center tROBERT S. YEATS, Oregon State University Staff THOMAS M. USSELMAN Agency Liaison Representatives BILAL U. HAQ, National Science Foundation GEORGE A. KOLSTAD, Department of Energy NED A. OSTENSO, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration *Terms ended June SO, 1989 [Terms began July 1, 1989 1V
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Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Resources NORMAN HACKERMAN, Robert A. Welch Foundation, Chairman ROBERT C. BEARDSLEY, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution C. CLARK BURCHFIEL, Massachusetts Institute of Technology GEORGE F. CARRIER, Harvard University (emeritus) RALPH J. CICERONE, University of California, Irvine HERBERT D. DOAN, The Dow Chemical Company (retired) PETER S. EAGLESON, Massachusetts Institute of Technology DEAN E. EASTMAN, IBM, T. J. Watson Research Center MARYE ANN FOX, University of Texas GERHART FRIEDLANDER, Brookhaven National Laboratory LAWRENCE W. FUNKHOUSER, Chevron Corporation (retired) PHILLIP A. GRIFFITHS, Duke University NEAL F. LANE, Rice University CHRISTOPHER F. McKEE, University of California, Berkeley RICHARD S. NICHOLSON, American Association for the Advancement of Science JACK E. OLIVER, Cornell University JEREMIAH P. OSTRIKER, Princeton University Observatory FRANK L. PARKER, Vanderbilt University DENIS J. PRAGER, MacArthur Foundation DAVID M. RAUP, University of Chicago ROY F. SCHWITTERS, EG&G, Inc. LARRY L. SMARR, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign KARL K. TUREKIAN, Yale University MYRON F. UMAN, Acting Executive Director v
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Studies in Geophysics ,6 ENERGY AND CLIMATE Roger R. Revelle, panel chairman, 1977, 158 pp. ESTUARIES, GEOPHYSICS, AND THE ENVIRONMENT Charles B. Officer, panel chairman, 1977, 127 pp. CLIMATE, CLIMATIC CHANGE, AND WATER SUPPLY James R. Wallis, panel chairman, 1977, 132 pp. THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE AND MAGNETOSPHERE Francis S. Johnson, panel chairman, 1977, 168 pp. GEOPHYSICAL PREDICTIONS Helmut E. Landsberg, panel chairman, 1978, 215 pp. IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON GEOPHYSICS Homer E. Newell, panel chairman, 1979, 136 pp. CONTINENTAL TECTONICS B. Clark Burchfiel, Jack E. Oliver, and Leon T. Silver, panel co-chairmen, 1980, 197 pp. MINERAL RESOURCES: GENETIC UNDERSTANDING FOR PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS Paul B. Barton, Jr., panel chairman, 1981, 119 pp. SCIENTIFIC BASIS OF WATER-RESOURCE MANAGEMENT Myron B. Fiering, panel chairman, 1982, 127 pp. *Published to date. . . V11
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SOLAR VARIABILITY, WEATHER, AND CLIMATE John A. Eddy, panel chairman, 1982, 104 pp. CLIMATE IN EARTH HISTORY Wolfgang H. Berger and John C. Crowell, panel co-chairmen, 1982, 198 pp. FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH ON ESTUARIES: THE IMPORTANCE OF AN INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH L. Eugene Cronin and Charles B. Officer, panel co-chairmen, 1983, 79 pp. EXPLOSIVE VOLCANISM: INCEPTION, EVOLUTION, AND HAZARDS Francis R. Boyd, panel chairman, 1984, 176 pp. GROUNDWATER CONTAMINATION John D. Bredehoeft, panel chairman, 1984, 179 pp. ACTIVE TECTONICS Robert E. Wallace, panel chairman, 1986, 266 pp. THE EARTH'S ELECTRICAL ENVIRONMENT E. Philip Krider and Raymond G. Roble, panel co-chairmen, 1986, 263 pp. SEA-LEVEL CHANGE Roger R. Revelle, panel chairman, 1990, 246 pp. . . . vail
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Preface This study is part of a series, Studies in Geophysics, that has been undertaken to provide assessments from the scientific community to aid policymakers in decisions on societal problems that involve geophysics. An important part of such assessments is an evaluation of the adequacy of current geophysical knowledge and the appropriateness of current research programs as a source of information required for those decisions. This study on sea-level change was initiated by the Geophysics Study Committee in consultation with the liaison representatives of the agencies that support the committee, relevant boards and committees within the National Research Council, and members of the scientific community. The study addresses our current scientific understanding of sea-level change particu- larly the processes of sea-level change, their rates, and the record of past change. For example, how much of apparent sea-level change is related to global changes in the volume and mass of the ocean basins (eustatic signal) and how much is related to tectonic factors that might contaminate the eustatic signal? The object of the study is to present an integrated picture of sea-level change its causes, feedbacks, and record. The preliminary scientific findings of the authored background chapters were presented at an American Geophysical Union (AGU) symposium. In completing their chapters, the authors had the benefit of discussions at this symposium and comments from several scientific referees. Ultimate responsibility for the individual chapters, however, rests with their respective authors. Although a fair amount of time has elapsed since the symposium, the authors made efforts to incorporate up-to-date information within their respective chapters. The Overview and Recommendations of the study summarizes the highlights of the chapters and formulates conclusions and recommendations. In preparing the Overview 1X
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x PREFACE and Recommendations, the panel chairman and the Geophysics Study Committee made use of comments from meetings at the AGU symposium, the members of the panel, several meetings of the committee, and the reviews of scientists, who were approved by the National Research Council's Report Review Committee. Responsibility of the Overview and Recommendations rests with the Geophysics Study Committee and the chairman of the panel.
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Contents Overview and Recommendations. THE RECORD 1. Recent Changes in Sea Level: A Summary Tim P. Barnett 2. North Atlantic Sea Level and Circulation. Keith R. Thompson 3. Large-Scale Coherence of Sea Level at Very Low Frequencies W. Sturges Glacial Isostatic Adjustment and Relative Sea-Level Change....... W. Richard Pettier 5. Quaternary Sea-Level Change ................................ Robley K. Matthews 6. Graphic Analysis of Dislocated Quaternary Shorelines Arthur L. Bloom and Nobuyuki Yonekura 7. Seismic Stratigraphic Record of Sea-Level Change Nicholas Christie-Thick, G. S. Mountain, and K. G. Miller 8. Long-Term Eustasy and Epeirogeny in Continents C. G. A. Harrison X1 ... 37 .52 63 .73 ... 88 .. 104 .116 .. 141
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. . X11 CONTENTS PROCESSES AND FEEDBACKS 9. Could Possible Changes in Global Groundwater Reservoir Cause Eustatic Sea-Level Fluctuations? .............................. William W. Hay and Mark A. Leslie 10. Role of Land Ice in Present and Future Sea-Level Change Mark F. Meter 11. Sea Level and Climate Change ...... Eric ]. Barron and Starley L. Thompson 12. Long-Term Aspects of Future Atmospheric CO2 and Sea-Level Changes ....................................... Eric T. Sundquist 13. Sea Level and the Thermal Variability of the Ocean. Dean Roemmich FUTURE MEASUREMENTS 14. Strategy for Future Measurements of Very-Low-Frequency Sea-Level Change ............................. Walter Munk, Roger Revelle, Peter Worcester, and Mark Zumberge Index ...... .. 161 ... 171 ... 185 .... 193 ..... 208 ..... 221 . 229