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A Probabilistic Assessment of Ice Volume During the Last Interglacial

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Bob E. Kopp1,2, Frederik J. Simons1, Jerry X. Mitrovica3, Adam C. Maloof1 and Michael Oppenheimer1,2

1Department of Geosciences, Princeton University (

2Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University

3Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University


Geological data indicate that local sea levels at many localities during the Last Interglacial (LIG) was several meters higher than present.  Using these data to robustly estimate eustatic (ice volume equivalent) sea level change is a complex undertaking, since the mapping between the observations and ice volumes involves the gravitational, deformational, and rotational (viscoelastic) response of the Earth system to the ice age surface mass forcing.  We have constructed a database of LIG sea level indicators from 42 geographically widespread localities and developed a novel statistical approach for their analysis.  The approach incorporates both the geographic variability inherent to post-glacial sea-level change and geochronological uncertainties.  Our results indicate a 95% probability that eustatic sea level peaked during the Last Interglacial above 6.6 m, a 67% probability that it exceeded 8.0 m, and only a 33% probability that it exceeded 9.4 m.  We will also discuss the constraints that may be placed on hemispheric contributions to these changes.

Last updated: September 9, 2009

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