Deep-sea and ice-core data show that sea level, and thus global temperature, fluctuated often during the past 1.8 million years. Fossil coral reefs, tidal flats, and beaches are precise indicators of former sea level. Although large fluctuations are indicated by the geologic record, this paper focuses on the younger, well-documented fluctuations recorded by coral reefs and shoreline deposits that accumulated during the past 140,000 years. During this relatively short period, fossil coral species and depositional processes have remained unchanged, and diagenetic alteration of fossils and sediments was minimal. Coral reefs and shoreline accumulations were selected as sea-level indicators for two reasons: 1) They serve as bathtub rings and/or dipsticks for determining former sea levels, and 2) human activity had no influence on the sea in which they grew or accumulated. Emergent coral reefs worldwide suggest that global sea level was at least 6 m above present during isotope stage 5e approximately 120,000 years (120 ka). Drowned coral reefs and oolitic beaches indicate sea level was about 100 m below present during Stage 2 as little as 12 ka. As many as eight sea-level fluctuations occurred between Stages 2 and 5e, each of which was greater than those projected to result from burning fossil fuels. Ice-core data suggest even more fluctuations between stages 5a and 5e. Because the record is written in stone, geologists, especially sedimentologists, should be well qualified to make future predictions. Geologists have, for the most part, been excluded from official decision making.
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Geological Perspectives of Global Climate Change
Access A Broad Range of Paleoclimatic Studies. Current debates regarding potential man-induced modification of climate make this volume especially timely. Introductory sections address the major and minor physical controls, or drivers, that affect Earth's climate. Several chapters describe the naturally occurring range of variation of climatic conditions and illustrate past changes in global temperatures. Case studies show how ancient temperature conditions are determined, as well as new techniques that have significant potential as proxies for assessing paleoclimates. Several chapters demonstrate the magnitude and length of duration of numerous temperature variations, which occurred during geologic time periods.