New York University Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Navigation Skip to Sub Navigation

Earth’s Interior Cycles Contribute to Long-Term Sea Level and Climate Change

September 17, 2013

By James Devitt


Ancient rises in sea levels and global warming are partially attributable to cyclical activity below the Earth’s surface, researchers from NYU and Ottawa’s Carleton University have concluded in an analysis of geological studies.


However, the article’s authors, FAS professor Michael Rampino and Carleton’s Andreas Prokoph, note that changes spurred by the Earth’s interior are gradual, taking place in periods ranging from 60 million to 140 million years—far less rapidly than those brought on by human activity.


Their analysis appeared in Eos, a newspaper published by the American Geophysical Union.
Rampino and Prokoph’s analysis considers long-term fluctuations in global climate, diversity of marine organisms, and sea level changes, aiming to identify a unifying cause for these changes. While much scientific study has centered on phenomena above the Earth’s crust, less attention has historically been paid to changes deep inside our planet.


In recent years, however, researchers have examined the upwelling of mantle plumes—the rising up of heated rocks from Earth’s mantle that reach the Earth’s surface. These plumes have a notable impact on one geologic occurrence: the eruption of igneous provinces, which are large accumulations of rocks formed from congealed lava.


In their analysis of recent scientific findings, Rampino and Prokoph observe that mantle plumes coincide with cyclical surface changes, suggesting that the plumes themselves may be cyclical in nature. For example, Prokoph’s previous research has found that many geological changes had cycles of 60 and 140 million years and suggested the cyclical uprising of these plumes to form hotspots—areas on the Earth’s surface where volcanic activity has endured.


More broadly, the researchers write, mantle plumes push up against the Earth’s crust, shifting water to continents, thereby producing sea-level rise, and precipitating volcanic activity, which produces additional CO2, leading to a warmer climate.


“Mantle plumes appear to show regular cycles,” Rampino explains. “So what’s remarkable is there is a strong indication of a connection between changes on the Earth’s surface—such as volcanic activity and rising sea levels—and what’s occurring deep inside the Earth. This suggests a fascinating and powerful union between below-surface geological events and changes in our climate.”

Type: Article

Earth’s Interior Cycles Contribute to Long-Term Sea Level and Climate Change

Search News



NYU In the News

CUSP Unveils its “Urban Observatory”

Crain’s New York Business profiled CUSP’s “Urban Observatory” that is continuously photographing lower Manhattan to gather scientific data.

Post-Sandy Upgrades at the Langone Medical Center

NY1 reported on the major post-Sandy upgrades and renovations made at the Medical Center to protect the hospital from future catastrophic storms.

Steinhardt Research Helps Solve Tough Speech Problems.

The Wall Street Journal reported on research at Steinhardt’s Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, including an interview with Assistant Professor Tara McAllister Byun, that uses ultrasound to help solve tough speech problems.

Times Column Lauds Professor Stevenson’s New Memoir

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote a column about “Just Mercy,” a new memoir by Law Professor Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, whom he noted has been called America’s Nelson Mandela.

Entrepreneurship Lab Opens at NYU

Crain’s New York Business covered the opening of the Mark and Debra Leslie Entrepreneurial eLab, which will be the headquarters for NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute and all of the University’s programs aimed at promoting innovation and startups.

NYU Footer