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About IGCP 609

IGCP 609

“Climate-environmental deteriorations during greenhouse phases:

Causes and consequences of short-term Cretaceous sea-level changes”




The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) International Geoscience Programme (IGCP) in cooperation with the International Union for Geological Sciences (IUGS) provides “a platform for scientists from across the world to push the frontiers of knowledge forward through concrete projects” ( IGCP operates in about 150 countries involving thousands of scientists.


IGCP provides the platform to facilitate and (in part) financially support scientific exchange and communication between concrete projects (concrete research projects have to be applied for in the respective countries and from respective national and international funding organisations) under an interdisciplinary topic, i.e. specific IGCP projects such as IGCP 609. The IGCP project benefits from its participating researchers and projects, and concrete projects and their proposals, in turn, can benefit from being linked to a certain IGCP project.


One of the main purposes if the IGCP Programme is to financially support the participation of scientists from developing countries (and particularly young and women scientists) in the respective workshops and meetings.



The IGCP 609 Project

The project has been accepted in May 2013 and is going to last till 2017. In 2018, the Council of the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP) agreed to our request to put IGCP 609 on extended term (O.E.T.) for 2018.

(See IGCP 609 Abstract)




The recent rise in sea-level in response to increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases and the associated global warming is a primary concern for society. Evidence from Earth history indicates that glacial-interglacial and some more ancient sea-level changes occurred at rates an order of magnitude or more higher than that observed at present. To predict future sea-levels we need a better understanding of the record of past sea-level changes.


In contrast to glacial eustasy controlled mainly by waxing and waning of continental ice sheets, short-time sea-level changes during major greenhouse episodes of the earth history are known but still poorly understood. The global versus regional correlation and extend, their causes, and consequences of these sea-level changes are strongly debated.




The Cretaceous (145-66 million years ago) is believed to have differed from our present world in multiple respects, such as climatic conditions (‘greenhouse world’ in general), climate change and patterns, palaeoceanographic conditions and high eustatic sea levels.


The IGCP 609 addresses correlation, causes and consequences of significant short-term, i.e. kyr to 100s of kyr, sea-level changes during the last major greenhouse episode of earth history, the Cretaceous. The long-term sea-level record, i.e. 1st to 2nd order cycles occurring over millions to tens of millions of years, is controlled by the internal dynamic history of the Earth. The changing rates of ocean crust production led first to long-term sea-level rise, high stands, and then decline during Cretaceous times. However, superposed shorter-term, 3rd to 4th order (kyr to 100s of kyr), sea level changes are recorded in Cretaceous sedimentary sequences as well. The mechanisms for these are controversial and include brief glacial episodes, storage and release of groundwater, regional tectonism, and mantle-induced processes.


Recent refinements of the geological time scale using new radiometric dates and numerical calibration of bio-zonations, carbon and strontium isotope curves, paleomagnetic reversals, and astronomically calibrated time scales have made major advances for the Cretaceous. Major international efforts such as EARTHTIME, EARTHTIME-EU and GTSnext programs are improving the Cretaceous time scale to yield a resolution comparable to that of younger Earth history. It is now for the first time possible to correlate and date short-term Cretaceous sea-level records with a resolution appropriate for their detailed analysis.


This project will investigate Cretaceous (145 Ma – 66 Ma) sea-level cycles in detail in order to differentiate and quantify both short- and long-term records within the new high-resolution absolute time scale based on orbital cyclicity. The time interval for study includes the time of super-greenhouse "hothouse" conditions, major oceanic anoxic events (e.g. Weissert-Event, OAE 1a, OAE 2), the Cretaceous Thermal Maximum and the subsequent cooling to "cool" greenhouse conditions by the end of the Cretaceous.




The first major goal is to correlate high-resolution sea-level records from globally distributed sedimentary archives to the new, high-resolution absolute time scale, using sea-water isotope curves and orbital (405, 100 kyr eccentricity) cycles. This will resolve the question whether the observed short-term sea-level changes are regional (tectonic) or global (eustatic) and determine their possible relation to climate cycles.


The second goal will be the calculation of rates of sea-level change during the Cretaceous greenhouse episode. Rates of geologically short-term sea-level change on a warm Earth will help to better evaluate recent global change and to assess the role of feedback mechanisms, i.e. thermal expansion/contraction of seawater, subsidence due to loading by water, changing vegetation of the Earth System.


The third goal will be to investigate the relation of sea-level highs and lows to ocean anoxia and oxidation events, represented by black shales and oceanic red beds, and to evaluate the evidence for ephemeral glacial episodes or other climate events. Multi-record and multi-proxy studies will provide a high-resolution scenario for entire sea-level cycles and allow development of quantitative models for sea-level changes in greenhouse episodes.




At the moment (March 2018), 149 researchers from 41 countries all over the world participate in IGCP 609.



UNESCO/IUGS International Geoscience Programme Project 609 (2013–2017+2018)

Climate-environmental deteriorations during

Greenhouse phases: Causes and consequences

of short-term Cretaceous sea-level changes

IGCP 609

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