Fossil corals show catastrophic sea-level rise about 121,000 years ago

April 16th, 2009 - 12:45 pm ICT by ANI  

National Geographic Washington, April 16 (ANI): A study, which is being touted as controversial, has said that fossil coral reefs at a Mexican theme park “confirm” that sea levels rose rapidly about 121,000 years ago.

Previous research on fossil reefs had shown that sea levels surged by 13 to 19 feet (4 to 6 meters) near the end of the last time period between ice ages, known as an interglacial period.

But, researchers have been unsure whether this sea-level rise happened quickly or gradually.

According to a report in National Geographic News, by mapping the ages and locations of ancient corals at Xcaret, an eco-park in the Yucatan Peninsula, Paul Blanchon of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and colleagues, were able to chart when the reefs died and were replaced by others on higher ground.

Their data suggest that sea levels rose by about 10 feet (3 meters) in 50 years - much faster than the current annual rate of 0.08 to 0.1 inch (2 to 3 millimeters).

Because this event happened during an interglacial period, similar to the one we’re in currently, the find boosts the chances that today’s melting ice sheets could trigger rapid sea-level rise, according to the researchers.

Mike Kearney, of the University of Maryland said that it’s “within the realm of possibility” that global warming will trigger a sudden collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which could lead to a rapid increase in sea levels like that predicted by the new study.

“But the big unknown is whether any of the things we think we know about the Antarctic ice sheet prove to be true,” Kearney cautioned.

“One camp says (rapid sea-level rise) could happen, another camp says it would take thousands of years. I’m not sure what the conventional wisdom is right now. It depends on who you talk to,” he added. (ANI)

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