Sea Level

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Sea level has been fluctuating throughout Earth’s history with variable frequencies and amplitudes. Currently it is rising by several millimeters a year, slowly inundating coastal and low-lying areas globally. Understanding the dynamics and the consequences of sea level rise is one of the main research efforts in our department. While monitoring current sea level with high-resolution technologies, such as remote sensing, allows the rise to be tracked on human timescales, studies of the rock record of previous sea-level fluctuations are paramount to our understanding of the long-term effects of sea level on coastal systems.  Shallow-water carbonates, in particular coral reefs and ooid shoals, are faithful recorders of past sea level changes. Several projects in our department use these two sedimentary systems to reveal the rates and dynamics of the sea-level rise that had inundated Florida and other coastal areas around the world 120,000 years ago when sea level peaked 6 m higher than today.