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A 5000-year record of relative sea-level change in New Jersey, USA

Walker, J.S.; Li, T.; Shaw, T.A.; Cahill, N.; Barber, D.C.; Brain, M.J.; Kopp, R.E.; Switzer, A.D.; Horton, B.P.

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J.S. Walker

T. Li

T.A. Shaw

N. Cahill

D.C. Barber

R.E. Kopp

A.D. Switzer

B.P. Horton


Stratigraphic data from salt marshes provide accurate reconstructions of Holocene relative sea level (RSL) change and necessary constraints to models of glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA), which is the dominant cause of late Holocene RSL rise along the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast. Here, we produce a new mid- to late-Holocene RSL record from a salt marsh bordering Great Bay in southern New Jersey using basal peats. We use a multi-proxy approach (foraminifera and geochemistry) to identify the indicative meaning of the basal peats and produce sea-level index points (SLIPs) that include a vertical uncertainty for tidal range change and sediment compaction and a temporal uncertainty based on high precision Accelerator Mass Spectrometry radiocarbon dating of salt-marsh plant macrofossils. The 14 basal SLIPs range from 1211 ± 56 years BP to 4414 ± 112 years BP, which we combine with published RSL data from southern New Jersey and use with a spatiotemporal statistical model to show that RSL rose 8.6 m at an average rate of 1.7 ± 0.1 mm/yr (1σ) from 5000 years BP to present. We compare the RSL changes with an ensemble of 1D (laterally homogenous) and site-specific 3D (laterally heterogeneous) GIA models, which tend to overestimate the magnitude of RSL rise over the last 5000 years. The continued discrepancy between RSL data and GIA models highlights the importance of using a wide array of ice model and viscosity model parameters to more precisely fit site-specific RSL data along the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast.


Walker, J., Li, T., Shaw, T., Cahill, N., Barber, D., Brain, M., …Horton, B. (2023). A 5000-year record of relative sea-level change in New Jersey, USA. Holocene, 33(2), 167-180.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 14, 2022
Online Publication Date Nov 14, 2022
Publication Date 2023-02
Deposit Date Sep 14, 2022
Publicly Available Date Mar 22, 2023
Journal The Holocene
Print ISSN 0959-6836
Electronic ISSN 1477-0911
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Issue 2
Pages 167-180


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Copyright Statement
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (

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