Reconstructing Sea Level in New England Salt Marshes
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Ocean Health

Reconstructing Sea Level in New England Salt Marshes

Help scientists reconstruct sea level in order to understand the impacts of current sea level rise - one of the most significant consequences of climate change.


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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Help researchers add to a seven-year study along the Northeast Coast of the U.S. to assess one of the greatest environmental threats of our time – climate change.

To better understand the sea-level changes that are being seen today, it’s critical to understand the history of sea-level fluctuations.

Help scientists to understand whether sea levels are rising faster today than in the past

Scientists are using fossil records and sediment cores to reconstruct sea level since the last ice age to compare to today’s records to understand whether sea levels are rising faster today than in the past.

An increase in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels has contributed to global warming and climate change. The variation in Earth’s temperature has caused concerns about potential sea-level rise associated with global warming and its impacts on coastal resources. Sea-level rise will not only impact organisms in the intertidal zone, but it will also influence the millions of people that reside along the coast. Due to the importance of the coast and the potential consequences of sea-level fluctuations, there has been increased attention focused on evidence of former fluctuations in sea level.

There are a number of factors that contribute to short- and long-term variations in sea level. Waves, tides, and specific flooding events are instances of short-term fluctuations since they occur on a daily basis. Long-term variations, on the other hand, occur over varying time scales, from a period of months to a period of several years. These long-term variations are influenced by many factors, including changes in coastal and ocean circulation as well as human-induced influences.

To get an accurate picture of the cyclical nature of sea-level change, scientists must analyze data on sea level changes over a period of thousands of years. The rates of sea-level rise obtained since the last ice age, 26,000 years ago, provide the fundamental basis for comparing historical and present day changes. Developing a high-resolution sea-level record for the late Holocene (the last 4,000 years) will play an important role in measuring and understanding sea-level fluctuations.

About the research area

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, United States, North America & Arctic

Daily life in the field

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The Scientists

MEET THE LEAD SCIENTIST

Simon
Engelhart
Assistant Professor, Department of GeoSciences, University of Rhode Island

ABOUT Simon Engelhart

DR. SIMON ENGELHART is an assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island in the Department of Geosciences. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania studying the construction of accurate and precise sea level curves for the eastern seaboard of the U.S. This work is essential in developing coastal management policies to deal with future sea-level rise. Simon will be responsible for the collection and analysis of fossil sediments and demonstrating their use in reconstructing past sea levels and paleoenvironments of the Narragansett Bay coastline.

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