[Coral-List] Sea level rise and coral reef development

Charles Booth booth at easternct.edu
Thu Nov 30 12:53:20 EST 2006

Dear Coral-listers:

In last week¹s issue of Science (24 November, Vol. 314. no. 5803, pp. 1250 ­
1252), a Perspectives essay on the rate of melting polar glaciers by Anny
Cazenave contained the following statement:

³For the past 3000 years, global sea level has remained stable, but since
the end of the 19th century, tide gauges have detected global sea-level
rises [~1.8 mm/year on average over the past 50 years]....²

Perhaps I¹m confused, or maybe seriously out of touch with current thinking
on post-glacial sea level changes, but I was under the impression that sea
level has been rising continuously since the last ice age.  According to
various sources (including a Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection
publication on Long Island Sound), in the Western Atlantic (U.S. East coast)
the rate of sea level rise was a little over 1 mm per year from
approximately 8,000 years ago to 3,500 years ago, then slowed to a little
less than 1 mm per until the end of the 19th century; in the past 100 or so
years the sea level rise has accelerated  to 2-4 mm per year. It has also
been my understanding that this continuous sea level rise allowed the upward
development of coral reefs in the Caribbean and Florida, as well as salt
marshes in East coast estuaries from Nova Scotia to Georgia.

I understand that local or regional subsidence of the land can cause an
apparent rise in sea level, but I have never read that subsidence is the
cause for sea level rise along the U.S. East coast and Caribbean.

Can someone set me straight on this point?

Thanks in advance,

Chuck Booth

*   *   *   *   *   *   *
Dr. Charles E. Booth
Dept. of Biology
Eastern Connecticut State University
Willimantic, CT  06226

Ph: 860-465-5260
Email: booth at easternct.edu
FAX:  860-465-5213

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