US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Geomorphology 389 (2021) 107826


U.S. government work


Glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) models hypothesize that along coastal California, last interglacial (LIG, broadly from ~130 to ~115 ka) sea level could have been as high as +11 m to +13 m, relative to present, substantially higher than the commonly estimated elevation of +6 m. Areas with low uplift rates can test whether such models are valid. Marine terraces on Santa Cruz Island have previously been reported to occur at low (<10 m) elevations, but ages of many such localities are not known. Using lidar imagery as a base, marine terraces on Santa Cruz Island were newly mapped, elevations were measured, fossils were collected for U-series dating (corals), strontium isotope compositions and amino acid geochronology (mollusks), and paleozoogeography (all taxa). Sr isotope compositions of mollusks from the highest of three marine terraces give ages of ~2.5 Ma to 1.9 Ma, along with Pliocene ages, fromshells interpreted to be reworked. U-series ages of corals fromthewestern part of the island indicate that low-elevation terraces north of the Santa Cruz Island fault correlate to the LIG. Where corals are lacking, amino acid ratios and faunal aspects support terrace correlation to the LIG high stand of sea. Elevations of most terrace localities north of the east-west trending Santa Cruz Island fault, in both thewestern and eastern parts of the island, range from5.75mto 8mabove sea level, well belowthe modeled paleo-sealevel range. Subsidence is ruled out as a mechanism for explaining the lower-than-modeled elevations, because higher-elevation terraces are present alongmuch of the Santa Cruz Island coast north of the fault, indicating longterm tectonic uplift. The low elevations of the LIG terrace fragments are, however, consistent with a low rate of uplift derived from the higher, ~2.5–1.9 Ma terrace. A number of other localities on the Pacific Coast, also dated to the LIG, have marine terrace elevations below the modeled level. GIA models may have overestimated last interglacial sea level by a substantial amount and need to be revised if used for forecasts for future sea-level rise.