RISeR is a 5-year research project focusing on the rates, magnitude and spatial patterns of sea-level change during the Last Interglacial.

The Last Interglacial (~130,000-116,000 years ago) provides evidence for sea-level being several meters above present, far above that experienced in human memory, suggesting the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets were much smaller than present.

Global mean temperature during the Last Interglacial were ~1oC warmer than pre-industrial values (Otto-Bliesner et al., 2013) and 3-5oC warmer at polar latitudes (Capron et al., 2014).  Though the drivers of warming during the Last Interglacial are different to those of today, it is the amplified warming at polar latitudes, the primary locations of terrestrial ice masses likely to contribute to long term sea-level rise, which makes it an important palaeo-laboratory for understanding long-term sea-level change.  There is a reasonably good understanding of the climatic context of the Last Interglacial, but estimates of rates of global mean sea-level rise associated with polar ice-sheet retreat and/or collapse are a major weakness in current research.

The RISeR project will:

  • Develop new high-resolution reconstructions of Last Interglacial sea-level change for northwest Europe, using previously unstudied offshore sedimentary archives from the North Sea;
  • Provide the first chronological constraints on the timing, and therefore rates, of relative sea-level change that occurred in northwest Europe in response to global mean sea-level change during the warmer climate of the Last Interglacial;
  • Conduct state-of-the-art numerical modelling of the contribution of solid Earth processes to the reconstructed relative sea-level changes;
  • Disentangle the relative contribution of the Greenland and/or Antarctica ice sheets to global Last Interglacial sea-level rise.

Using the resulting palaeo sea-level reconstructions, RISeR will then provide estimates of land areas and populations at risk of sea-level rise over the coming millennium, based upon the Last Interglacial sea-level scenarios.  The potential socio-economic impacts of future sea-level rise are huge and there is a clear obligation to for us to plan for future sea-level change in 2100 and beyond, for future generations.  Worst-case, high-end scenarios of future sea-level rise are critical for planning and mitigation strategies.

The project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 802281) and runs from 2019-2024.