Articles | Volume 12, issue 4
Clim. Past, 12, 911–921, 2016
Clim. Past, 12, 911–921, 2016

Review article 11 Apr 2016

Review article | 11 Apr 2016

Palaeo-sea-level and palaeo-ice-sheet databases: problems, strategies, and perspectives

André Düsterhus1,2, Alessio Rovere3,4, Anders E. Carlson5, Benjamin P. Horton6,7, Volker Klemann8, Lev Tarasov9, Natasha L. M. Barlow10, Tom Bradwell11, Jorie Clark5, Andrea Dutton12, W. Roland Gehrels13, Fiona D. Hibbert14, Marc P. Hijma15, Nicole Khan6, Robert E. Kopp16, Dorit Sivan17, and Torbjörn E. Törnqvist18 André Düsterhus et al.
  • 1National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool, L3 5DA, UK
  • 2Institute of Oceanography, Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN), University of Hamburg, Bundesstraße 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
  • 3MARUM, University of Bremen, & ZMT, Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology, Leobener Str., Bremen, Germany
  • 4Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, P.O. Box 1000, 61 Route 9W, Palisades, New York, USA
  • 5College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331 USA
  • 6Sea Level Research, Department of Marine and Coastal Science and Institute of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA
  • 7Earth Observatory of Singapore and Asian School of the Environment, Nanyang Technological University, 639798, Nanyang, Singapore
  • 8Dep. Geodesy and Remote Sensing, German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ, Potsdam, Germany
  • 9Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL, Canada
  • 10Department of Geography, Durham University, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK
  • 11Biological & Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA, Scotland, UK
  • 12Department of Geological Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA
  • 13Environment Department, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5NG, UK
  • 14Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, UK
  • 15Department of Applied Geology and Geophysics, Deltares, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  • 16Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, Rutgers Energy Institute, and Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA
  • 17Department of Maritime Civilizations, Leon Charney School of Marine Sciences and Recanati Institute of Maritime Studies (RIMS), University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
  • 18Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Tulane University, 6823 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, Louisiana 70118-5698, USA

Abstract. Sea-level and ice-sheet databases have driven numerous advances in understanding the Earth system. We describe the challenges and offer best strategies that can be adopted to build self-consistent and standardised databases of geological and geochemical information used to archive palaeo-sea-levels and palaeo-ice-sheets. There are three phases in the development of a database: (i) measurement, (ii) interpretation, and (iii) database creation. Measurement should include the objective description of the position and age of a sample, description of associated geological features, and quantification of uncertainties. Interpretation of the sample may have a subjective component, but it should always include uncertainties and alternative or contrasting interpretations, with any exclusion of existing interpretations requiring a full justification. During the creation of a database, an approach based on accessibility, transparency, trust, availability, continuity, completeness, and communication of content (ATTAC3) must be adopted. It is essential to consider the community that creates and benefits from a database. We conclude that funding agencies should not only consider the creation of original data in specific research-question-oriented projects, but also include the possibility of using part of the funding for IT-related and database creation tasks, which are essential to guarantee accessibility and maintenance of the collected data.

Short summary
This review/position paper addresses problems in creating new interdisciplinary databases for palaeo-climatological sea-level and ice-sheet data and gives an overview on new advances to tackle them. The focus therein is to define and explain strategies and highlight their importance to allow further progress in these fields. It also offers important insights into the general problem of designing competitive databases which are also applicable to other communities within the palaeo-environment.