Abstract

Differences in marine terrace elevations across the Pacific coast of North America have long been assumed to be a result of differences in the rates of tectonic motion. However, other processes, particularly glacio-isostatic adjustment, lead to regional variations in sea levels. In this study, we compiled the elevations of marine isotope stage (MIS) 5e (ca. 119–129 ka), 5c (ca. 106 ka), and 5a (ca. 84 ka) terraces across the Pacific coast of central North America and compared these regional variations in elevation with model predictions of glacio-isostatic adjustment after correcting for tectonics. These predictions are generally consistent with the observed trends in the elevations of the terraces and show that this process created up to 20 m of coeval variation in local sea levels along the Pacific coast of central North America (between 20°N and 45°N) during MIS 5c and MIS 5a, but less, ∼4 m, during MIS 5e. Accounting for glacio-isostatic adjustment reduces the variability in uplift rates calculated at individual locations using different-aged terraces as datums. Ignoring glacio-isostatic adjustment leads to overestimated uplift rates by an average of 40%, but up to 72%, across the Pacific coast of central North America. An understanding of regional variations in glacio-isostatic adjustment–corrected sea levels also contributes to the correct identification of marine terraces with mistaken ages.

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