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the UCSB forum on spatial technologies presents

The Spatial and Temporal Variability
of Sea-Level Changes

Dr. Timothy Shaw

Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University

Thursday, May 5, 2022, 4:00 pm PDT | Friday, May 6, 2022, 7:00 am SGT | online

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Abstract: Over the 21st century it is virtually certain global mean sea level will rise posing an existential threat to low-lying islands, coastal deltas and environments, and population densities. Prerequisite for sea-level projections is understanding the relationship between sea levels and climate variability. Most instrumental tide gauge records, however, are temporally limited to the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries and capture a sea-level climate relationship during which anthropogenic forcing dominates. Geological reconstructions can provide complementary archives demonstrating the longer-term sea-level response over centuries to millennia to a wider range of climate forcings and boundary conditions. Furthermore, geological reconstructions can provide baseline datasets documenting the response of coastal ecosystems (e.g., mangroves, salt marshes and coral reefs) to sea-level rise important to coastal management strategies countering the effects of future climate and sea level changes (e.g., nature-based solutions). Here, I will illustrate the spatial and temporal variability of past (since the last glacial maximum 26 ka BP) and present (20th and 21st century) relative sea-level changes including examples from my own research along the U.S. Atlantic coast and Southeast Asia. I will discuss the importance of understanding driving processes that cause regional and local sea levels to deviate from the global mean that are important in the context of future projections and constraining uncertainty.

Timothy ShawBio: Dr. Timothy Shaw is Senior Research Fellow at the Earth Observatory of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University with ~10 years’ experience in sea-level research working in the United States (Rutgers University) and Singapore (EOS, NTU) following a PhD and Master’s degree in physical geography and environment and climate science from the University of Liverpool, UK. His current research focuses on reconstructing magnitudes, rates and driving processes of past and present sea-level changes in Singapore and Southeast Asia that is multidisciplinary and collaborative at national and international scales. Understanding past sea levels provides an important foundation for understanding and framing context to future projections and the response of coastal ecosystem to sea-level rise.


The objectives of the ThinkSpatial Forum are to exchange ideas about spatial perspectives in research, teaching and application; to broaden communication and cooperation across disciplines; and to encourage the sharing of tools and concepts.

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ThinkSpatial: Timothy A. Shaw