US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Quaternary International 638-639 (2022) 197–204.


Used by permission.


Predictive modeling of submerged archaeological sites requires accurate sea-level predictions in order to reconstruct coastal paleogeography and associated geographic features that may have influenced the locations of occupation sites such as rivers and embayments. Earlier reconstructions of the paleogeography of parts of the western U.S. coast used an assumption of eustatic sea level, but this neglects the large spatial variations in relative sea level (RSL) associated with glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) and tectonics. Subsequent work using a one-dimensional (1-D) solid Earth model showed that reconstructions that accounted for GIA result in significant differences from those based on eustatic sea level. However, these analyses neglected the complex three-dimensional (3-D) solid Earth structure associated with the Cascadia subduction zone that has also strongly influenced RSL along the Oregon-Washington (OR-WA) coast, requiring that the paleogeographic reconstructions must also account for this effect. Here we use RSL predictions from a 3-D solid Earth model that have been validated by RSL data to update previous paleogeographic reconstructions of the OR-WA coast for the last 12 kyr based on a 1-D solid Earth model. The large differences in the spatial variations in RSL on the OR-WA continental shelves predicted by the 3-D model relative to eustatic and 1-D models demonstrate that accurate reconstructions of coastal paleogeography for predictive modeling of submerged archaeological sites need to account for 3-D viscoelastic Earth structure in areas of complex tectonics.