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Holocene relative sea-level change along the tectonically active Chilean coast

Garrett, Ed; Melnick, Daniel; Dura, Tina; Cisternas, Marco; Ely, Lisa L.; Wesson, Robert L.; Jara-Muñoz, Julius; Whitehouse, Pippa L.

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Ed Garrett

Daniel Melnick

Tina Dura

Marco Cisternas

Lisa L. Ely

Robert L. Wesson

Julius Jara-Muñoz


We present a comprehensive relative sea-level (RSL) database for north, central, and south-central Chile (18.5°S – 43.6°S) using a consistent, systematic, and internationally comparable approach. Despite its latitudinal extent, this coastline has received little rigorous or systematic attention and details of its RSL history remain largely unexplored. To address this knowledge gap, we re-evaluate the geological context and age of previously published sea-level indicators, providing 78 index points and 84 marine or terrestrial limiting points spanning from 11 ka to the present day. Many data points were originally collected for research in other fields and have not previously been examined for the information they provide on sea-level change. Additionally, we describe new sea-level data from four sites located between the Gulf of Arauco and Valdivia. By compiling RSL histories for 11 different regions, we summarise current knowledge of Chilean RSL. These histories indicate mid Holocene sea levels above present in all regions, but at highly contrasting elevations from ∼30 m to <5 m. We compare the spatiotemporal distribution of sea-level data points with a suite of glacial isostatic adjustment models and place first-order constraints on the influence of tectonic processes over 103–104 year timescales. While seven regions indicate uplift rates <1 m ka−1, the remaining regions may experience substantially higher rates. In addition to enabling discussion of the factors driving sea-level change, our compilation provides a resource to assist attempts to understand the distribution of archaeological, palaeoclimatic, and palaeoseismic evidence in the coastal zone and highlights directions for future sea-level research in Chile.


Garrett, E., Melnick, D., Dura, T., Cisternas, M., Ely, L. L., Wesson, R. L., …Whitehouse, P. L. (2020). Holocene relative sea-level change along the tectonically active Chilean coast. Quaternary Science Reviews, 236, Article 106281.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 19, 2020
Online Publication Date Apr 23, 2020
Publication Date May 15, 2020
Deposit Date Apr 30, 2020
Publicly Available Date Apr 23, 2021
Journal Quaternary Science Reviews
Print ISSN 0277-3791
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 236
Article Number 106281
Public URL


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