A new Holocene relative sea level curve for the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica

Emma Watcham, Michael Bentley, Dominic Hodgson, Stephen J. Roberts, Peter Fretwell, Jerry Lloyd, Robert Larter, Pippa Whitehouse, Melanie Leng, Patrick Monien, Steven Moreton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Precise relative sea level (RSL) data are important for inferring regional ice sheet histories, as well as helping to validate numerical models of ice sheet evolution and glacial isostatic adjustment. Here we develop a new RSL curve for Fildes Peninsula, South Shetland Islands (SSIs), a sub-Antarctic archipelago peripheral to the northern Antarctic Peninsula ice sheet, by integrating sedimentary evidence from isolation basins with geomorphological evidence from raised beaches. This combined approach yields not only a Holocene RSL curve, but also the spatial pattern of how RSL change varied across the archipelago. The curve shows a mid-Holocene RSL highstand on Fildes Peninsula at 15.5 m above mean sea level between 8000 and 7000 cal a BP. Subsequently RSL gradually fell as a consequence of isostatic uplift in response to regional deglaciation. We propose that isostatic uplift occurred at a non-steady rate, with a temporary pause in ice retreat ca. 7200 cal a BP, leading to a short-lived RSL rise of w1 m and forming a second peak to the mid-Holocene highstand. Two independent approaches were taken to constrain the long-term tectonic uplift rate of the SSIs at 0.22e0.48 m/ka, placing the tectonic contribution to the reconstructed RSL highstand between 1.4 and 2.9 m. Finally, we make comparisons to predictions from three global sea level models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3152-3170
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number21-22
Early online date19 Aug 2011
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


Dive into the research topics of 'A new Holocene relative sea level curve for the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this