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PALSEA2 5th workshop: Phasing of ice sheet and sea-level responses to past climate change

Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexico
Workshop report
Contact person
Andrea Dutton
E-Mail address
Working groups
Meeting Category

PAGES' PALeo constraints on SEA level rise 2 (PALSEA2) working group will hold a workshop, titled "Phasing of ice sheet and sea-level responses to past climate change" in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, from 6-9 November 2017.


Hotel Occidental at XCaret
Playa del Carmen, Mexico


Numbers will be limited to about 40 participants. This is the fifth and final PALSEA2 workshop.


One of the greatest uncertainties in predicting future sea-level rise lies in the responses of Earth’s remaining ice sheets. The geologic record provides valuable archives of how ice sheets and sea level have responded to past climate variability, particularly during periods of relative high-latitude warmth. Well-dated records of relative-sea-level change, ice-sheet extent and regional climate can help to constrain time lags between temperature changes and ice-sheet responses through periods of climate transition and relative stability.

The primary aim of the PALSEA2 working group is to use the information contained in the geological record to improve the accuracy of sea-level projections for the coming centuries to millennia. This aim is being addressed by bringing together researchers with different but complementary expertise through a series of five annual workshops that each focus on different aspects of the problem.


Being the final workshop in this phase, the primary goal is to consider: (1) the current state of the science relating to quantifying and understanding causes and rates of past changes in sea level and ice sheets during past warm periods, and (2) how information obtained from paleo records can be best applied to improve projections of future ice sheet and sea level changes.

In particular, major knowledge and methodology gaps will be identified and suggestions put forward to fill/overcome these. In addition, progress on the development of sea level and ice extent data bases, a key aim of PALSEA2, will be reviewed. The results of this final workshop will be used to define the aims and structure of the working group that will succeed PALSEA2.

Contributions that synthesize results in a broader context, integrate diverse methodologies and data sources, and identify paths towards reconciling existing datasets and/or filling gaps in our knowledge of past sea-level behavior, and the processes responsible for sea-level changes, are encouraged. Based on previous PALSEA meetings, the discussion will be lively yet productive in terms of identifying key knowledge and/or data gaps and reaching consensus on what conclusions can be drawn collectively as a community.

Field trips

This workshop will feature two field excursions, including a one-day trip to the XCaret fossil reef and a half-day excursion to the coastal caves. Both of these sites contain records of past sea level change and are current field sites for Dr. Andrea Dutton (one of the PALSEA2 co-leaders) and her research team.

The local host is Dr. Paul Blanchon, who is based at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Puerto Morelos (a town that is situated in between Cancun and the meeting site, which itself is about a 45 min. drive south of the Cancun airport). Blanchon is an expert in coral reef and carbonate sedimentary environments, and will lead the field excursion to XCaret, where there are impressive exposures (up to 6 m in vertical extent) of the fossil coral reef from the Last Interglacial period, where he has done an extensive amount of field work. Blanchon is presently collaborating with Dutton to study the geochemistry and exposure history of the reefs to better interpret past sea-level change during this time interval. Dutton will co-lead the field excursion to XCaret with the assistance of four of her PhD students, three of whom have done field work there before, and one of whom is working there as part of her PhD thesis. Blanchon has offered to lead a trip to the modern reef also that will be an optional add-on to the workshop.

Background information

The PALSEA2 plan is comprised of five phases: the first four of these have ran for the entirety of the five-year program and are complementary while the fifth is for the final synthesis of results. Each past workshop focused on (but was not limited to) one phase. Phase 1 focused on rates and sources of sea-level change during paleo warm periods and was supported by a workshop in Rome, October 2013. This workshop resulted in the development of a review manuscript by a subgroup of the PALSEA2 community that attended the Rome meeting.

Phase 2 aimed to define and discuss best practice in the application of methodologies used to document paleo sea level and ice-sheet extent information, and to build sea-level/ice-sheet databases. This phase was supported by a workshop in Lochinver, Scotland, September 2014, and in addition to ongoing individual and collaborative group efforts to develop databases and cyberinfrastructure (e.g. the HOLSEA sub-group), a group paper on database needs and practices was published in 2016.

Phase 3 focused on data-model integration in order to better interpret ice-extent and sea-level changes during key climate warm periods and assess the skill of models to reproduce field observations. The third workshop built upon progress and outputs from the first two phases through several group discussions that considered how models and model output can be used most effectively to address outstanding problems. While there were no formal outputs from the third workshop, other than meeting reports, the group discussions led to clear targets for future modeling initiatives including the design of Climate Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) 6 experiments.

Phase 4 focused on sea-level budgets at decadal to millennial timescales to bridge the paleo and instrumental records and highlight timescales that are more commonly considered in sea-level projections (decades to centuries). This workshop included a meeting of the HOLSEA sub-group which led to the submission and acceptance of a proposal for a special issue in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews on regional sea-level databases to be published later in 2017.

Phase 5 will focus on synthesizing key results of all four phases by considering the current state of the science and identifying key knowledge gaps and methodological limitations in understanding and quantifying changes in sea level and ice sheets during past warm periods. A key goal will also be to ensure that the healthy progress made in database development through PALSEA2 and the sub-group HOLSEA will be maintained.

Abstract submission

The deadline for abstract submission is 21 August 2017. Abstracts must address the goals of the meeting.

Please send abstracts to Anders Carlson using this word template.

Further information

Questions can be directed to Andrea Dutton: