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Letters to Nature
Nature 361, 710 - 712 (25 February 1993); doi:10.1038/361710a0

Climate-induced fluctuations in sea level during non-glacial times

David K. Jacobs* & Dork L. Sahagian

*Department of Invertebrates, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, New York 10024-5192, USA
Department of Geological Sciences and Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University, 155 South Oval Mall, Columbus, Ohio 43210-1397, USA

DURING periods of time when the Earth supports ice caps, sea level fluctuates periodically at intervals of 104–105 yr, with amplitudes of tens to more than 100 metres. These fluctuations result from expansions and contractions of continental ice sheets that occur in phase with the Milankovitch periodicities of the Earth's orbit1,2. Smaller-amplitude sea-level fluctuations associated with Milankovitch periodicities are also evident during warm periods, such as the Late Triassic3–5, which lack strong evidence for continental glaciation6. We argue here that, in times of limited ice volume, periodic climate-induced changes in lake and groundwater storage have the potential to produce small fluctuations in sea level. This mechanism could contribute a small component of the sea-level change observed in the Quaternary period, and may dominate the Milankovitch eustatic sea-level signal during earlier periods with limited ice volume6. We present evidence of contemporaneous Milankovitch periodicities in Late Triassic lake sediments7 and sea-level fluctuation3–5 which support the causal link between lake water storage and eustasy.

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