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Deglacial sea-level record from Tahiti corals and the timing of global meltwater discharge

Nature volume 382, pages 241244 (18 July 1996) | Download Citation

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Abstract

THE timing of the last deglaciation is important to our understanding of the dynamics of large ice sheets1 and their effects on the Earth's surface2,3. Moreover, the disappearance of the glacial ice sheets was responsible for dramatic increases in freshwater fluxes to the oceans, which probably disturbed the ocean's thermohaline circulation and, hence, global climate4–7. Sea-level increases bear witness to the melting of continental ice sheets, but only two such records—from Barbados8,9 and New Guinea10,11 corals—have been accurately dated. But these corals overlie active subduction zones, where tectonic movements are large and often discontinuous (especially in New Guinea), so the apparent sea-level records may be contaminated by a complex tectonic component. Here we date fossil corals from Tahiti, which is far from plate boundaries (and thus is likely to be tectonically relatively stable) and remote from the locations of large former ice sheets. The resulting record indicates a large sea-level jump shortly before 13,800 calendar years BP, which corresponds to meltwater pulse 1A in the Barbados coral records8,9. The timing of this event is more accurately constrained in the Tahiti record, revealing that the meltwater pulse coincides with a short and intense climate cooling event12–15 that followed the initiation of the Bølling–Allerød warm period12–16, but preceded the Younger Dryas cold event by about 1,000 years.

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Author information

Affiliations

  1. CEREGE, Université d'Aix-Marseille III, URA CNRS 132, Europôle de I'Arbois, BP 80, Aix-en-Provence cedex 4, France

    • Edouard Bard
    •  & Bruno Hamelin
  2. Institut Universitaire de France

    • Edouard Bard
  3. Centre des Faibles Radioactivités, CNRS-CEA, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette cedex, France

    • Maurice Arnold
  4. Centre de Sédimentologie et de Paléontologie, Université de Provence-St-Charles, 3 PI. V. Hugo, 13331 Marseille cedex 3, France

    • Lucien Montaggioni
  5. ORSTOM-TOA, UMR CNRS-ORSTOM GéoAzur (EP 125), BP 48, 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer, France

    • Guy Cabioch
  6. Laboratoire d'Hydrobiologie Marine, Université de Montpellier II, case 096, PI. E. Bataillon, 34095 Montpellier cedex 5, France

    • Gérard Faure
  7. ORSTOM Centre de Papeete, Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

    • Francis Rougerie
  8. Present address: Observatoire Océanologique Européen de Monaco, Av. St Martin, MC-98000 Monaco.

    • Francis Rougerie

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https://doi.org/10.1038/382241a0

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