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A review of short-term (<3 myr: c. 100 kyr to 2.4 myr) Cretaceous sea-level fluctuations of several tens of metres indicates recent fundamental progress in understanding the underlying mechanisms for eustasy, both in timing and in correlation. Cretaceous third- and fourth-order hothouse sea-level changes, the sequence-stratigraphic framework, are linked to Milankovitch-type climate cycles, especially the longer-period sequence-building bands of 405 kyr and 1.2 myr. In the absence of continental ice sheets during Cretaceous hothouse phases (e.g. Cenomanian–Turonian), growing evidence indicates groundwater-related sea-level cycles: (1) the existence of Milankovitch-type humid-arid climate oscillations, proven via intense humid weathering records during times of regression and sea-level lowstands; (2) missing or inverse relationships of sea-level and the marine δ18O archives, i.e. the lack of a pronounced positive excursion, cooling signal during sea-level lowstands; and (3) the anti-phase relationship of sea and lake levels, attesting to high groundwater levels and charged continental aquifers during sea-level lowstands. This substantiates the aquifer-eustasy hypothesis. Rates of aquifer-eustatic sea-level change remain hard to decipher; however, reconstructions range from a very conservative minimum estimate of 0.04 mm a−1 (longer time intervals) to 0.7 mm a−1 (shorter, probably asymmetric cycles). Remarkably, aquifer-eustasy is recognized as a significant component for the Anthropocene sea-level budget.

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