Earth Institute Research Projects

FESD Type 1: Pliocene Maximum Sea Level (PLIOMAX): Dynamic Ice Sheet-Earth Response in a Warmer World

Lead PI: Dr. Maureen E Raymo

Unit Affiliation: Biology and Paleo Environment, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

September 2011 - August 2018
Global ; Antarctica
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: Seeks to understand the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet in a slightly warmer world by measuring sea levels from about 400,000 years ago and examining the role of warmer weather on ice sheet behavior. The project will deliver: 1) A dramatically improved database of Pliocene shoreline elevations from around the world. 2) A series of experiments (and mapped results) that predict the global isostatic response and expected modern elevations of Pliocene shorelines under different ice sheet, mantle, and dynamic topography scenarios. 3) A coupled high-resolution atmosphere-ocean-ice sheet/shelf-Earth model, the first of its kind.

OUTCOMES: Demonstrated that due to sinking land, past sea levels were 6-13 meters higher than today, not 20 meters. Demonstrated that in the interglacial marine isotope stage 11 warmer temperatures caused the Greenland Ice Sheet and West Antarctic Ice Sheet to collapse, but the East Antarctic Ice Sheet remained stable.
Preliminary results given at 13 meetings.
One public lecture. 12 appearances in news articles/radio/TV/press/etc. Produced 5 Journal Publications. One website.


National Science Foundation (NSF)




UNC-Chapel Hill, Curtain University, Council for Geosciences in S. Africa, South Carolina Geological Survey, Sub-contracts with University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of North Carolina Wilmington, and Penn State.



ice sheets biology and paleo environment pliomax paleoclimate sea level pliocene maximum sea level


Modeling and Adapting to Future Climate