Long-term Phanerozoic global mean sea level: Insights from strontium isotope variations and estimates of continental glaciation

Douwe G. van der Meer*, Christopher R. Scotese, Benjamin J.W. Mills, Appy Sluijs, Aart Peter van den Berg van Saparoea, Ruben M.B. van de Weg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Global mean sea level is a key component within the fields of climate and oceanographic modelling in the Anthropocene. Hence, an improved understanding of eustatic sea level in deep time aids in our understanding of Earth's paleoclimate and may help predict future climatological and sea level changes. However, long-term eustatic sea level reconstructions are hampered because of ambiguity in stratigraphic interpretations of the rock record and limitations in plate tectonic modelling. Hence the amplitude and timescales of Phanerozoic eustasy remains poorly constrained. A novel, independent method from stratigraphic or plate modelling methods, based on estimating the effect of plate tectonics (i.e., mid-ocean ridge spreading) from the 87Sr/86Sr record led to a long-term eustatic sea level curve, but did not include glacio-eustatic drivers. Here, we incorporate changes in sea level resulting from variations in seawater volume from continental glaciations at time steps of 1 Myr. Based on a recent compilation of global average paleotemperature derived from δ18O data, paleo-Köppen zones and paleogeographic reconstructions, we estimate ice distribution on land and continental shelf margins. Ice thickness is calibrated with a recent paleoclimate model for the late Cenozoic icehouse, yielding an average ∼1.4 km thickness for land ice, ultimately providing global ice volume estimates. Eustatic sea level variations associated with long-term glaciations (>1 Myr) reach up to ∼90 m, similar to, and is at times dominant in amplitude over plate tectonic-derived eustasy. We superimpose the long-term sea level effects of land ice on the plate tectonically driven sea level record. This results in a Tectono-Glacio-Eustatic (TGE) curvefor which we describe the main long-term (>50 Myr) and residual trends in detail.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-121
Number of pages19
JournalGondwana Research
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • Eustasy
  • Glaciation
  • Phanerozoic
  • Sea level
  • Sequence stratigraphy
  • Tectono-Glacio-Eustatic


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