Sea level data spanning 35 million years pulled from 6,000-foot hole

To better understand how rising sea levels could impact the planet, researchers have drilled more than 6,000 feet into the Earth's crust--making the deepest hole in scientific ocean drilling history. In doing so, they retrieved a 35-million-year record of sea level fluctuations.
For eight weeks beginning in November 2009, off the coast of New Zealand, an international team of 34 scientists and 92 support staff and crew on board the scientific drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution (JR) were at work investigating sea level change in a region called the Canterbury Basin, the U.S. National Science Foundation said in a news statement about the venture.

The JR is one of the primary research vessels of an international research program called the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP). The program is supported by the NSF and Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology.

"At present 10 percent of the world's population lives within 10 meters [33 feet] of sea level. Current climate models predict a 50-centimeter [20-inch] to more than one-meter [39 inches] rise in sea level over the next 100 years, posing a threat to inhabitants of low-lying coastal communities around the world," NSF said.

To better understand what drives changes in sea level and how humans are affecting this change, scientists are "looking to our past for answers and digging back as far as 35 million years into the Earth's history to understand these dynamic processes," said Rodey Batiza of the NSF's division of ocean sciences.


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