Sea level was 130 metres lower than today during the Last Glacial Maximum, about 20,000 years ago, reports a paper published online this week in Nature Geoscience. This is 10 metres lower than previous estimates suggest, indicating that more water was stored in ice sheets in the Northern Hemisphere than previously thought.
Jacqueline Austermann and colleagues used numerical modelling to assess how changes in ice volume and ocean mass has affected the Earth’s crust and mantle underneath Barbados over the past 20,000 years. Unlike previous models, this attempt considered the effects of subduction - when one tectonic plate moves underneath another - in the region on the mantle response. They used the results to correct a coral-based reconstruction of past changes in sea level, and show that sea level was 130 metres lower than today during the Last Glacial Maximum.