Cave formations along the coast of an island in the Mediterranean Sea hold evidence that sea level can rise and fall abruptly during an ice age, a finding that casts some doubt on current notions about how those lengthy cold spells develop and progress.
At the height of an ice age, immense volumes of water are locked up in land-based ice sheets, and ocean levels can be as much as 130 meters below where they are today. By contrast, when that ice melts during warm periods, sea level can be a few meters higher than the modern-day standard, says Jeffrey Dorale, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. Now, Dorale and his colleagues report in the Feb. 12 Science that during a brief interval well within the most recent ice age, sea level suddenly and inexplicably rose to a height more than one meter above today’s.
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