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Constraints on future sea-level rise from past sea-level change

A Retraction to this article was published on 21 February 2010

This article has been updated


It is difficult to project sea-level rise in response to warming climates by the end of the century, especially because the response of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to warming is not well understood1. However, sea-level fluctuations in response to changing climate have been reconstructed for the past 22,000 years from fossil data, a period that covers the transition from the Last Glacial Maximum to the warm Holocene interglacial period. Here we present a simple model of the integrated sea-level response to temperature change that implicitly includes contributions from the thermal expansion and the reduction of continental ice. Our model explains much of the centennial-scale variability observed over the past 22,000 years, and estimates 4–24 cm of sea-level rise during the twentieth century, in agreement with the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change1 (IPCC). In response to the minimum (1.1 C) and maximum (6.4 C) warming projected for AD 2100 by the IPCC models, our model predicts 7 and 82 cm of sea-level rise by the end of the twenty-first century, respectively. The range of sea-level rise is slightly larger than the estimates from the IPCC models of 18–76 cm, but is sufficiently similar to increase confidence in the projections.

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Figure 1: The best fit equilibrium sea-level curve for the simulations considered as a function of ΔT.
Figure 2: Model simulation of the termination.
Figure 3: Model projections of sea-level rise for the twenty-first century.

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  • 21 February 2010

    This Letter has been retracted. See the full retraction notice for details.


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M.S. acknowledges support from Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory and the University of Bristol (LDEO and RCUK fellowships). Conversations with J. Shepherd and D. Pollard have been very useful in bringing this work together and it could not have been completed without their suggestions. Support from the Swiss National Science Foundation and the University of Bern (T.F.S.) and the US National Science Foundation (P.U.C.) is acknowledged.

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Initial concept: M.S.; development, refinement, writing: M.S., P.U.C., T.F.S.

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Correspondence to Mark Siddall.

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Siddall, M., Stocker, T. & Clark, P. Constraints on future sea-level rise from past sea-level change. Nature Geosci 2, 571–575 (2009).

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