Relative sea-level change in Connecticut (USA) during the last 2200 yrs

TitleRelative sea-level change in Connecticut (USA) during the last 2200 yrs
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsKemp, AC, Hawkes, AD, Donnelly, JP, Vane, CH, Horton, BP, Hill, TD, Anisfeld, SC, Parnell, AC, Cahill, N
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Pagination217 - 229
Date PublishedJan-10-2015
KeywordsAtlantic Ocean, Foraminifera, Gulf Stream, Late Holocene, Salt marsh

We produced a relative sea-level (RSL) reconstruction from Connecticut (USA) spanning the last ∼2200 yrs that is free from the influence of sediment compaction. The reconstruction used a suite of vertically- and laterally-ordered sediment samples ≤2 cm above bedrock that were collected by excavating a trench along an evenly-sloped bedrock surface. Paleomarsh elevation was reconstructed using a regional-scale transfer function trained on the modern distribution of foraminifera on Long Island Sound salt marshes and supported by bulk-sediment δ13C measurements. The history of sediment accumulation was estimated using an age-elevation model constrained by radiocarbon dates and recognition of pollution horizons of known age. The RSL reconstruction was combined with regional tide-gauge measurements spanning the last ∼150 yrs before being quantitatively analyzed using an error-in-variables integrated Gaussian process model to identify sea-level trends with formal and appropriate treatment of uncertainty and the temporal distribution of data. RSL rise was stable (∼1 mm/yr) from ∼200 BCE to ∼1000 CE, slowed to a minimum rate of rise (0.41 mm/yr) at ∼1400 CE, and then accelerated continuously to reach a current rate of 3.2 mm/yr, which is the fastest, century-scale rate of the last 2200 yrs. Change point analysis identified that modern rates of rise in Connecticut began at 1850–1886 CE. This timing is synchronous with changes recorded at other sites on the U.S. Atlantic coast and is likely the local expression of a global sea-level change. Earlier sea-level trends show coherence north of Cape Hatteras that are contrasted with southern sites. This pattern may represent centennial-scale variability in the position and/or strength of the Gulf Stream. Comparison of the new record to three existing and reanalyzed RSL reconstructions from the same site developed using sediment cores indicates that compaction is unlikely to significantly distort RSL reconstructions produced from shallow (∼2–3 m thick) sequences of salt-marsh peat.