Scientists from nine nations have set sail for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) Tahiti Sea Level Expedition, a research expedition initiated to investigate global sea level rise since the last glacial maximum, approximately 23,000 years ago. For six weeks, aboard the DP HUNTER, the expedition science party will work on the most extensive geological research investigation ever undertaken in a coral reef area. Off the coast of Tahiti, IODP scientists will take samples of fossil corals from the ocean seafloor to analyze the environmental records that are inside them. Scientists expect the coral reefs to yield records on changes in sea surface temperature during the circumscribed period and information on climatic anomalies, including El Niño/Southern Oscillation events.
Through this research expedition, IODP scientists aim to learn more about the timing and course of past global sea level changes to better understand present and future sea level rise due to global greenhouse conditions. Since the climax of the last ice age, global sea level has risen by about 120 meters, primarily because of the melting of large inland ice sheets and thermal expansion of the global body of ocean waterattributable to rising temperatures.
According to IODP scientists, Tahiti is well situated for these investigations because the island is located in a tectonically stable region. Consequently, changes in sea level here can be related solely to global effects. Because the corals off Tahiti have strict ecological requirements and are extremely sensitive to environmental changes, both natural and human-induced, they are accurate, sensitive recorders of past sea level and climatic change.
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