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Authors: Pappalardo, Marta* 
Baroni, Carlo* 
Bini, Monica* 
Isola, Ilaria* 
Ribolini, Adriano* 
Salvatore, Maria Cristina* 
Zanchetta, Giovanni* 
Title: Challenges in relative sea-level change assessment highlighted through a case study: The central coast of Atlantic Patagonia
Journal: Global and Planetary Change 
Series/Report no.: /182 (2019)
Issue Date: 2019
DOI: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2019.103008
Keywords: Past relative sea levels
Sea-level indicators
Vertical datum
Abstract: There are areas in the world where our understanding of past sea-level changes is less robust than in others. This is partly due to the difficulty past investigators had adopting i) high-resolution elevation measurement techniques (largely available only in the last decade) and ii) standardized methodological approaches to reconstruct past relative sea levels starting from field measurements. The central coast of Atlantic Patagonia (Argentina), preserves a unique succession of coastal landforms, which scientific investigations suggest to have been formed discontinuously since at least marine isotope stage 11 up to the Holocene. Patagonian coastal deposits (in particular raised beach ridges, marine terraces and river mouth terraces) and erosional landforms (slope angles, marine notches) were studied in the past with the aim of reconstructing relative sea-level changes and provide geological evidence to constrain geophysically based models for an area affected by significant vertical displacement due to isostatic adjustment and possibly by tectonic uplift. So far, there is no general agreement about the interpretation of Patagonia landforms and deposits in terms of sea-level index points. This is certainly a gap within a planetary scale overview of sea-level change and represents an obstacle for the construction of a sound model of glacial isostatic adjustment for the area. In this paper we critically analyse previous works on sea-level change along the central coast of Atlantic Patagonia and highlight the major sources of uncertainty, including choices about calculating past relative sea levels from the elevation of indicators and the vertical datum used. We also provide a comparison between different vertical datums (tidal, gravimetric and geodetic) at a real site (Puerto Deseado) where Differential Global Positioning System measurements were performed by our team in 2016, and address the problem from a trans-disciplinary point of view. In order to obtain accurate sea-level change estimates in the area, we suggest the use of a large spectrum of sea-level markers with well-defined indicative meanings and the adoption of specific technical choices capable of minimizing instrumental errors.
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