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Relative sea-level changes in southeastern Australia during the 19th and 20th centuries

Williams, S.L.; Garrett, E.; Moss, P.T.; Dangendorf, S.; Hibbert, F.D.; Atkinson, N.R.; Pashley, V.; Millar, I.L.; Garnett, M.H.; Zawadzki, A.; Gehrels, W.R.

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E. Garrett

P.T. Moss

S. Dangendorf

F.D. Hibbert

N.R. Atkinson

V. Pashley

I.L. Millar

M.H. Garnett

A. Zawadzki

W.R. Gehrels


Rates of global and regional sea-level rise between ~1850 and 1950 were high compared to those in preceding centuries. The cause of this sea-level acceleration remains uncertain, but it appears to be pronounced in a small set of relative sea-level proxy records from the Southern Hemisphere. Here we generate three new proxy-based relative sea-level reconstructions for southeastern Australia to investigate spatial patterns and causes of historical sea-level changes in the Tasman Sea. Palaeo sea-level estimates were determined using salt-marsh foraminifera as sea-level indicators. Records are underpinned by chronologies based on accelerator mass spectrometry 14C, radiogenic lead (210Pb), stable lead isotopes and palynological analyses. Our reconstructions show that relative sea level rose by ~0.2–0.3 m over the last 200 years in southeastern Australia, and rates of sea-level rise were especially high over the first half of the 20th century. Based on modelled estimates of the contributing components to sea-level rise, we suggest that the episode of rapid sea-level rise was driven by barystatic contributions, but sterodynamic contributions were dominant by the mid-20th century. Significant spatial variability in relative sea level indicates that local to sub-regional drivers of sea level are also prominent. Our reconstructions significantly enhance our understanding of the spatiotemporal pattern of early 20th century sea-level rise in the region.


Williams, S., Garrett, E., Moss, P., Dangendorf, S., Hibbert, F., Atkinson, N., …Gehrels, W. (2023). Relative sea-level changes in southeastern Australia during the 19th and 20th centuries. Journal of Quaternary Science,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 8, 2023
Online Publication Date May 8, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date May 9, 2023
Publicly Available Date May 9, 2023
Journal Journal of Quaternary Science
Print ISSN 0267-8179
Electronic ISSN 1099-1417
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Public URL


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Copyright Statement
© 2023 The Authors Journal of Quaternary Science Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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