When Andrea Dutton and her team first landed in the Seychelles islands in 2009, they were greeted by warm ocean breezes, high-end resorts and giant tortoises.
But she found there was more to these Indian-Ocean islands than sunshine and luxury. Through her research, Dutton, a carbonate geochemist and UF assistant geography professor, found that fossilized coral on the shore revealed the sea level was 20 to 30 feet higher 125,000 years ago.
Her research was published in a study in this month’s issue of Quaternary Science Reviews.
She said she did her research in the Seychelles because the sea level closely matches that of global mean sea level. Because the earth was also only a few degrees warmer 125,000 years ago, Dutton said this could have serious implications for the future.
The study found that the rise in sea level was due to the partial collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet.
“We’re going to have some thermal expansion, and at some point we’re going to run out of glaciers to melt, and there won’t be any left,” Dutton said.
Sea levels might rise even higher than the levels during the interglacial period because there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today, she said.
Karen Vyverberg, a second-year UF graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in geology, worked with Dutton in the Seychelles in 2013. She said the effects might be seen in the near future.
“The sea level could rise 20 to 30 feet starting in the next several decades when the temperatures at the poles increase,” Vyverberg, 23, said. “We have to ask serious questions about building on coastlines and our water resources.”
Adam Heery, a 21-year-old UF environmental science senior, said he appreciates research on rising sea levels.
“This study is a great stepping stone in data collection, providing a strong example to show society the consequences of climate change,” he wrote in an email.
[A version of this story ran on page 3 on 1/12/2015 under the headline “Professor's fossil research reveals climate-change data"]