A Bayesian hierarchical model for reconstructing relative sea level: from raw data to rates of change.

TitleA Bayesian hierarchical model for reconstructing relative sea level: from raw data to rates of change.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsCahill N, Kemp AC, Horton BP, Parnell AC
JournalClimate of the Past
Date Published02/2016

We present a Bayesian hierarchical model for reconstructing the continuous and dynamic evolution of relative sea-level (RSL) change with quantified uncertainty. The reconstruction is produced from biological (foraminifera) and geochemical (δ 13C) sea-level indicators preserved in dated cores of salt-marsh sediment. Our model is comprised of three modules: (1) a new Bayesian transfer (B-TF) function for the calibration of biological indicators into tidal elevation, which is flexible enough to formally accommodate additional proxies; (2) an existing chronology developed using the Bchron age–depth model, and (3) an existing ErrorsIn-Variables integrated Gaussian process (EIV-IGP) model for estimating rates of sea-level change. Our approach is illustrated using a case study of Common Era sea-level variability from New Jersey, USA We develop a new B-TF using foraminifera, with and without the additional (δ 13C) proxy and compare our results to those from a widely used weighted-averaging transfer function (WA-TF). The formal incorporation of a second proxy into the B-TF model results in smaller vertical uncertainties and improved accuracy for reconstructed RSL. The vertical uncertainty from the multi-proxy B-TF is ∼ 28 % smaller on average compared to the WA-TF. When evaluated against historic tide-gauge measurements, the multi-proxy B-TF most accurately reconstructs the RSL changes observed in the instrumental record (mean square error = 0.003 m2 ). The Bayesian hierarchical model provides a single, unifying framework for reconstructing and analyzing sea-level change through time. This approach is suitable for reconstructing other paleoenvironmental variables (e.g., temperature) using biological proxies.