17 Dec 2020

17 Dec 2020

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Last Interglacial (sensu lato, ~130 to 75 ka) sea level history from cave deposits: a global standardized database

Oana A. Dumitru1, Victor J. Polyak2, Yemane Asmerom2, and Bogdan P. Onac3 Oana A. Dumitru et al.
  • 1Biology and Paleo Environment Department, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA
  • 2Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA
  • 3School of Geosciences, University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., NES 107, Tampa, FL 33620, USA

Abstract. Cave deposits are powerful archives for reconstructing past sea levels as they are generally protected from weathering and erosion by their location and can be dated with U-series methods. Two main categories of cave deposits are recognized as sea level indicators: phreatic overgrowth on speleothems (POS) and submerged vadose speleothems (SVS). POS have the great advantage that they precipitate on preexisting vadose supports at a brackish water level equivalent to sea level when air-filled chambers of coastal caves are flooded by rising sea. SVS are also useful, but sea level is inferred indirectly as periods of growth provide constraints on maximum sea level positions, whereas growth hiatuses, sometimes difficult to observe, may indicate times when cave passages are submerged by sea high stands, hence they record minimum sea level elevations.

Here we describe a compilation that summarizes the current knowledge of MIS 5 (sensu lato) sea level captured by cave deposits. We used the framework of the World Atlas of Last Interglacial Shorelines (WALIS), a comprehensive sea level database, to provide a standardized format in order to facilitate scientific research on MIS 5 sea level. The discussion is MIS 5e-centered, but records that capture MIS 5c and 5a are also included. We present the data from 59 cave deposits (26 sea-level index points and 33 limiting points) in coastal caves located in eight different locations, and we include the spatial coverage, the samples used and their accuracy as indicators of sea level, the isotopic characteristics used to generate the U-Th chronologies, and their scientific relevance to understand past sea-level changes. The paper also emphasizes how some of these indicators are useful not only for the information they offer about the eustatic sea level, but more importantly: i) those from tectonically stable areas provide information on Earth deformation and regional ice sheet histories, thus refining the glacial isostatic adjustments models and ii) those from active regions can constrain regional tectonic uplift rates. The standardized sea-level database presented here is the first of its kind derived from cave deposits and contains all the information needed to assess former paleo relative sea level and the chronological constraints associated with them. The database is available open-access at (Dumitru et al., 2020).

Oana A. Dumitru et al.

Status: open (until 11 Feb 2021)
Status: open (until 11 Feb 2021)
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Oana A. Dumitru et al.

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A global standardized database of Last Interglacial (sensu lato, ~130 to 75 ka) sea level records from U-series dated cave deposits Dumitru, O. A., Polyak, V. P., Asmerom, Y., and Onac, B. P.

Oana A. Dumitru et al.


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Short summary
Here we describe a global database that summarizes the current knowledge of MIS 5 sea level as captured by cave deposits. We used the framework of WALIS database to provide a standardized format which will facilitate the sea level research community to utilize this worldwide database. This is the first cave deposits database and contains all the information needed to assess former paleo relative sea levels and their chronological constraints.