New Paper in Science: Sea level 81,000 years ago was 1 meter higher while CO2 was lower

This Week in SCIENCE, Volume 327, Issue 5967, Food Security dated February 12 2010, is now available at:

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Figure 1Excerpts:


Sea-Level Highstand 81,000 Years Ago in Mallorca

Jeffrey A. Dorale,1,* Bogdan P. Onac,2,* Joan J. Fornós,3 Joaquin Ginés,3 Angel Ginés,3 Paola Tuccimei,4 David W. Peate1

Global sea level and Earth’s climate are closely linked. Using speleothem encrustations from coastal caves on the island of Mallorca, we determined that western Mediterranean relative sea level was ~1 meter above modern sea level ~81,000 years ago during marine isotope stage (MIS) 5a. Although our findings seemingly conflict with the eustatic sea-level curve of far-field sites, they corroborate an alternative view that MIS 5a was at least as ice-free as the present, and they challenge the prevailing view of MIS 5 sea-level history and certain facets of ice-age theory.

1 Department of Geoscience, University of Iowa, 121 Trowbridge Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.

2 Department of Geology, University of South Florida, 4202 East Fowler Avenue, SCA 528, Tampa, FL 33620, USA; and Department of Geology, Babes-Bolyai University, Emil Racovita Institute of Speleology Cluj, Romania.

3 Departament de Ciències de la Terra, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Carretera Valldemossa km 7.5, Palma de Mallorca, 07122, Spain.

4 Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche, Università di Roma III, Largo St. Leonardo Murialdo, 1, 00146 Roma, Italy.

Sea-level rises and falls as Earth’s giant ice sheets shrink and grow. It has been thought that sea level around 81,000 years ago—well into the last glacial period—was 15 to 20 meters below that of today and, thus, that the ice sheets were more extensive. Dorale et al. (p. 860; see the Perspective by Edwards) now challenge this view. A speleothem that has been intermittently submerged in a cave on the island of Mallorca was dated to show that, historically, sea level was more than a meter above its present height. This data implies that temperatures were as high as or higher than now, even though the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was much lower.

, Bermuda [Ber (23, 24)], Grand Cayman [GC (25)], and Mallorca [Mal (1)]. (C) Sea-level reconstruction for Mallorca. Elevations and U/Th ages of encrusted speleothems throughout MIS 5 and at the onset of MIS 4 are shown (ages and 2{sigma} error bars are color-coded by sample; blue-colored ages are obtained from earlier studies (10). (D) The reconstructed ocean water {delta}18O, scaled as sea level (29). (E) 60°N June insolation (27). The vertical yellow bar denotes the timing of peak MIS 5a sea level recorded at Mallorca and shows a good correlation with 60°N June insolation and the reconstructed ocean water {delta}18O scaled as sea level."]”]Figure 2

We therefore consider the simple interpretation of our data that eustatic sea level during MIS 5a stood around +1 m relative to present sea level, implying less ice on Earth 81,000 years ago than today. Although this interpretation conflicts with the generally accepted eustatic sea-level curve based on the far-field sites of Barbados and New Guinea, it is consistent with a number of other estimates from around the world, including those from the Bahamas, the U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, and California (4, 6, 2226) (Fig. 2B). We considered the simple fact that this geographically diverse suite of sites spans a wide range of presumed isostatic states, yet the suite consistently indicates a late MIS 5a highstand of ~ +0 to 3 m (Fig. 2B). Bermuda and Mallorca, for example, are both tectonically stable, and both have MIS 5e/5a estimates of 2 to 3 and 1 to 2 m above modern sea level, respectively; whereas MIS 5e/5a estimates from Barbados are ~ +5 m and ~ –18 m (2). Any appeal to GIA to account for these discrepancies must somehow take into account the unlikely outcome that different ice centers on different continents (Laurentide versus Fennoscandian) would generate the virtually identical MIS 5e/5a relative sea-level histories of tectonically stable Bermuda and Mallorca. The very rapid onset and relatively brief nature of the MIS 5a highstand may have plausibly generated lags between the timing of sea-level changes and the timing of coral reef growth, and may provide a partial explanation as to why reefs on Barbados and New Guinea do not record a comparable eustatic height for this event. This and other factors that could be part of the apparent discrepancy are discussed in (9).


h/t to WUWT reader David Hagen


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Hopefully the less ideological pro-AGW’s will; be looking at this sort of excellent research based on the real world, and will be thinking a lot about their position.

Alan S

I know it is nothing new, but Science, as a journal, has been right up there with Nature in blocking this type of thing.
Have they finally found some integrity?


And some say you don’t have real science here! Think again.
This just shows that the environment responds the way it does regardless if we are on it or not.


This means the glacial/inter-glacial temperature and CO2 reconstructions from ice cores are completely wrong.
The reconstructions say it was 2C to 4C colder than present.

Michael Jankowski

Cue the, “Well just think of how bad things would have been IF CO2 had been elevated” spin.


Either sea level was a meter higher OR the land level at the location of measurement was 1 meter lower. Sea level at that distance into the past is all relative to the land surface, and means absolutely nothing.
REPLY: True, but they have a section in the complete paper where they ruled out isotasy issues. – Anthony

Philip_B said;
“This means the glacial/inter-glacial temperature and CO2 reconstructions from ice cores are completely wrong.”
As a proponent of Becks research I have always believed the ice cores to be wrong as I think the historic co2 readings from the 1830’s onwards are broadly correct. The two measurements are said to be incompatible and therefore ice cores ‘must’ be right.


Philip_B (15:46:23) :
I guess we all know that the CO2 concentration extracted from ice cores are questionable but I am not too sure if the concentration of CO2 in that cave was in equilibrium with that in the atmosphere. My guess is it was in equilibrium with that in the water. Not sure if the water in the cave was at equilibrium with sea water though.

Observe how various editors, authors and researchers are beginning to tippy-toe away from their previous AGW position. Who will make it to the door before the big rush? Who’ll be left in the room?
And who was behind all the misinformation?
Why not Bush and the Jews? Requires some tweaking…but the AGW gang will need some really solid, proven scapegoats to get out of this one.

For anyone interested I started playing with Cheifio’s dT/dt data and think I found some interesting tidbits.
Cheers, AJStrata

John Egan

Or was Mallorca 1 meter lower?
Is Mallorca that tectonically stable?
It is at the intersection of two major plates –
With the African plate creating enough pressure to build the Alps.
The entire Balearic chain is on a fault line.
I am simply asking.
Given the tectonic activity of the Mediterranean region –
I would have to see convincing evidence that this was not due to uplift.

I know what the warmers will say:
That was proven wrong long ago
That was caused by global warming
That is not peer reviewed
The author is obviously funded by oil companies
They use it with just about everything


Wierd, a brief melting period maybe??


Well, duh. Being a resident of Florida it always struck me as odd when warmists use the threat of rising sea levels as a consequence if we don’t change our ways, but it was common knowledge growing up that in the recent past (geologically speaking) almost all of the Florida peninsula was under water. I wondered why that was never brought up to refute the rising sea level claim by the warmists.

If I am reading the graph correctly, sea level maxima and minima seem to lag insolation maxima and minima by 2,000 to 10,000 years. If so, we might be at or just past the sea level peak of the Holocene interglacial.
More evidence that Milankovitch Cycles govern global climate change.

Britannic no-see-um

Probably a red herring but the Med is land-locked apart from the Straits of Gibraltar, with shallow sills. There is also a salinity density difference between Atlantic and Mediterranean, with complex tides and bores through the straights. It might have variably affected sea level equilibrium with the open oceans in the past.

Antonio San

This is no coming around, just an editorial strategy that backfired: I bet these papers were supposed to be drowned by the noise of the Copenhagen accord… hence their publication AFTER copenhagen. However this was without counting with climategate and the failure of COP15 and the renewed scrutiny…


It is obvious that since sea level is the datum by which land elevation is determined, an increase in CO2 concentration has caused the earth to rise


Just thinking out loud here, but isn’t there a theory floating around that up until the last 10,000 years or so the Black Sea was land locked and then flooded? I wonder how much that might have affected sea levels… would be interesting if it worked out to be about a meter(?)
Anywayz… just a random thought. Interesting read thanks!

A meter plus minus is just margin of error. The seas have risen and fallen 100 meters through the ice ages.
But what did I miss the last glaciation period started about about 120,000 bp and lasted until 11,000 bp. So how does this fit in the the established time lines?

Peter Miller

As John Egan states, this is all about tectonics, not climate.
Sea levels were definitely ~250 feet lower 80,000 years ago.

Roger Knights

This has got to give the warmists pause. (Not that they’ll openly admit it.)
I wonder how many other findings like this have been suppressed, spun, or soft-pedaled in the past.


The battle of the MSM networks on Climate Change is in full furry over the world record world wide snow storms. These neophyte climatologist reporters are a hoot to watch. MSNBC is parading out Bill Nye the Science Guy for Christ’s sake.
Dylan Ratigan Responds To Glenn Beck’s Global Warming Attack With His Own Chalkboard (VIDEO)


“This data implies that temperatures were as high as or higher than now”: really? I can see that the data are consistent with its having been as warm or warmer, but I don’t see why they imply that it was.
Anyway, the big deal is that it certainly implies that the science isn’t settled.

Kate S

Off topic but worth mentioning.
Dallas is about to shatter almost all their snow records.
I wonder how the pro-agw crowd will spin this newest record snowfall being that it’s so far south.

8th Howler Monkey

The articles are grtting more and more desparate…
“Most climate scientists respond that the ferocious storms are consistent with forecasts that a heating planet will produce more frequent and more intense weather events.”


Here’s another one;
The battle of the MSM networks on Climate Change is in full furry over the world record world wide snow storms. These neophyte climatologist reporters are a hoot to watch. MSNBC is parading out Bill Nye the Science Guy for Christ’s sake.
Colbert Rips Fox News For Using Snowstorm To Deny Global Warming (VIDEO)

Quote: Alan S (15:34:23) :
“I know it is nothing new, but Science, as a journal, has been right up there with Nature in blocking this type of thing.
Have they finally found some integrity?”
No. Science is running scared.
What will happen if decades of filth beneath the climategate iceberg come floating to the surface?
The public will see the unholy, international alliance of politicians, publishers, federal research agencies and news media that have been manipulating science as a tool of propaganda to control the people.
It is no mere coincidence when — the BBC, CBS, NBC, PBS, Nature, Science, the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, the US National Academy of Sciences, major newspapers, APS, ACS, AGU, major research institutions and universities, the Norwegian Nobel Committee, NASA, DOE, the UN’s IPCC, Al Gore, George Bush, Barack Obama, and the Met Office –- were all distributing the same misinformation.
With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Emeritus Professor of
Nuclear & Space Science
Former NASA PI for Apollo


carl sagan quotes:
“Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Many passengers would rather have stayed home.”
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”
Where is the humility, or the evidence.

Slightly OT but over at AMSU-A
sea surface temps are showing a sharp rise over the last week or so of about 1/4 of a degree. That would equate to about 1.5 watts/m2 additional energy being radiated from 3/4 of the earth’s surface. Near surface channel? down. 14,000 ft channel? down. 25,000 ft channel? down. 36,000 ft channel? down. What? did the CO2 take the week off? Extra energy is coming out of the ocean surface and (gasp!) not even taking a pee break on its way to outer space?
Seriously is there a way to graph the channels versus each other instead of a given channel against the previous year? One week does not a dataset make.


I’ve contacted the SMH Online dept and The Sydney Morning Herald will be streaming the Monckton/Lambert debate live at 12.30 Sydney time.
You can see it on their main page it will appear in the main picture top left currently joyce/abbott.
for overseas viewers you can sync your time here.

adam in california

Not possible. They didn’t have SCUBA gear 81,000 years ago.
So the cabinet of the government of Tuvalu could not have conducted any meetings, now could they have?
/ sarcasm


The Monckton – Lambert AGW debate in Sydney is starting right now.
You can watch it LIVE at


You don’t have to go back 81,000 years to see sea level changes occur sans benefit of SUVs and heavy industry.

Doubting Thomas

Well it seems obvious that a non light speed capable interstellar craft topped off it’s tanks about 18,000 years ago for the next leg of it’s voyage – there wasn’t anyone that would complain about it here at the time. So they sucked up 3 feet of water off the earth’s oceans for fuel – the missing three feet of ocean is explained without freezing anything and the lack of CO2 doesn’t matter. The question really is “how far could one travel with that much water/mass at sub light speed?”
(While they were here they built Nazca lines, pyramids, lost temples and the Sphinx to keep the crew’s morale up).
Also you will notice, I did not have to resort to chart’s, graphs, math or any other old fashioned methods to prove my statement. I bet I could sell a few thousand books to Bill Nye’s young people who are open to “new ideas”!
I know this strays way off topic but I hope someone will laugh.


Here is the Glenn Beck video that set off the MSNBC FOX media opinion war on man-made climate change.
The One Thing: 2/10


Well if California coast hasn’t budged an inch, the pics of 50 years on the Lost Coast are the truth of the matter. Nuthin’ going on as far as sea levels rising.
Colder ocean cycles mean contraction, so that is what we should expect to be happening.

Oliver Jack

Sorry, Oliver Manuel, but George Bush was the token global warming denier out of the sorry group you list. He took a lot of flak for it. When after several years of thrashings he made some token obeisance to the gods of environmental fascism, he was still treated as a warming denier.
Remember: information is the difference that makes a difference. If you try to make everyone equally stupid in the name of political correctness, it removes all the information.

Mike McMillan

Sounds more like the land rose and subsided than the sea level rose that high in the middle of the ice age.


The biggest benevolent bank with the little people’s best interest at heart receives major awards.
“Winners announced in voluntary carbon markets survey
London, 11 February: US investment bank JP Morgan has won three out of eight categories in Environmental Finance’s survey of the voluntary carbon markets.
The bank and its recent acquisitions, EcoSecurities and ClimateCare, were voted respectively Best Trading Company, Best Project Developer and Best Offset Retailer by the readers of Environmental Finance magazine.”
The international banksters own everything. Now they want to completely own you.

phil c

Hats off to Miskolczi and Sorokhtin and al. I’ve been studying this stuff for several years, trying to get a handle on all the standard CO2/GW theories, including the handwaving about back radiation and the various pretty pictures of heat flow in the atmosphere. None of it really made any sense when water is the most important greenhouse gas by far and readily available in such huge quantities. Coming up with the idea that CO2 absorbed enough radiation to cause any kind mlultiplier effect seemed totally superfluous. Not having the programming skills or mathematics available it seemed that a simple, overall model, like the one Arrhenius used to start all this, treating water as the major IR absorber would be the simplest and most effective model. Glad somebody has been able to do that.
ALL the various AGW models and all the hand-waving at the IPCC looked just like people trying to come up with an explanation in search of a problem. The earth has stayed at a relatively constant temperature for aeons, so all the radiation absorbed has to be re-radiated out. The only real question is how does the atmosphere and oceans work to insulate the heat loss and maintain the higher surface temperature. The upper bound to the atmosphere and the weird assumptions used by Arrhenius and continued to this day just seemed so wrong.

Adam from Kansas

davidmhoffer: That is strange to see the SST’s go up like that, because both Unisys and NOAA seem to not be showing such a sharp rise in their anomaly maps in comparison to several days ago.
Exactly where in the oceans is causing the big rise, because I can’t find it in the anomaly maps?


Is this paper any good? It’s wrong to just assume that because it supports your position that it has merit.


I’m just a hack but…..
How did the study control for the movement of cave wall “up and down”? Admitedly I have not read the study but assuming the cave wall stayed still for 81,000 years is a point that should require considerable evidence. Where I live the seascape has change dramatically in the last 1,000 let alone 81,000.


I have to agree with John Egan (16:12:53). Alone this is not strong evidence. From, :
“The Upper Miocene rocks of the Balearic archipelago (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera and smaller islands) are commonly flat-lying limestones and dolostones,with only slight tilting and flexure, probably caused by normal and strikeslip faulting in the Late Neogene to Middle Pleistocene. ”
“the present geological architecture
of the island is the result of a complex evolution involving
extensional processes -occurred from the Neogene to
the Quaternary- which are superimposed on the alpine
compressive structure. The Upper Miocene carbonate
platform of Migjorn [where the critical caves occur] was affected by such extensional tectonic activity and, in this way, the resulting coastal
morphology was mostly controlled by recent normal
faults which delimit the seaward border of the platform.
Furthermore, this extensional post-orogenic activity is
responsible for a marked tilting that affects the Migjorn
plateau, being depressed towards the south and uplifted
when reaching the W and NE ends of the karst area
(Fornós et al., 2002b). The differential uplifting left the
reefal Tortonian facies outcropping near the sea level at
the southernmost part of the island whereas it appears
higher than 40 m in the western and northeastern
borders of Migjorn.
There is no direct evidence that this tectonism died out in the Holocene.
But the comparisons with Bahamas, the U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, and California [the latter not such a good example] give credence to the authors’ conclusions.

David S

The more we learn the more we don’t know!


geoff pohanka (16:14:21) :
“I know what the warmers will say:

The author is obviously funded by oil companies”
British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell have been funding the CRU since 1974.


This can only mean that it’s worse than we thought.


While I have no reason to disbelieve the article, I think that it is important to keep a level head and open mind when researching the climate change topic ( It is vital that those who seek the truth and not just a political position to maintain integrity. Those with a political or personal stake in the controversy have done great damage to truth detecting with their lies, misstatements and conspiratorial altering of data to fit their worldview intstead of fitting their worldview to the data.

Anand Rajan KD

“The international banksters own everything. Now they want to completely own you.”
I like the term ‘bankster’. Has a nice ring to it.