Relative sea-level changes in southeastern Australia during the 19th and 20th centuries

Sophie Williams*, Ed Garrett, Patrick Moss, Sönke Dangendorf, Fiona Danielle Hibbert, Nicola Atkinson, Vanessa Pashley, Ian Millar, Mark H. Garnett, Atun Zawadzki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rates of global and regional sea-level rise between ~1850 and 1950 were high compared to those in preceding centuries. The cause of this sea-level acceleration remains uncertain, but it appears to be pronounced in a small set of relative sea-level proxy records from the Southern Hemisphere. Here we generate three new proxy-based relative sea-level reconstructions for southeastern Australia to investigate spatial patterns and causes of historical sea-level changes in the Tasman Sea. Palaeo sea-level estimates were determined using salt-marsh foraminifera as sea-level indicators. Records are underpinned by chronologies based on accelerator mass spectrometry 14C, radiogenic lead (210Pb), stable lead isotopes and palynological analyses. Our reconstructions show that relative sea level rose by ~0.2–0.3 m over the last 200 years in southeastern Australia, and rates of sea-level rise were especially high over the first half of the 20th century. Based on modelled estimates of the contributing components to sea-level rise, we suggest that the episode of rapid sea-level rise was driven by barystatic contributions, but sterodynamic contributions were dominant by the mid-20th century. Significant spatial variability in relative sea level indicates that local to sub-regional drivers of sea level are also prominent. Our reconstructions significantly enhance our understanding of the spatiotemporal pattern of early 20th century sea-level rise in the region.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Quaternary Science
Early online date8 May 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 May 2023

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