Relative Sea-Level Trends in New York City During the Past 1500 Years
New York City (NYC) is threatened by 21st-century relative sea-level (RSL) rise because it will experience a trend that exceeds the global mean and has high concentrations of low-lying infrastructure and socioeconomic activity. To provide a long-term context for anticipated trends, we reconstructed RSL change during the past ~1500 years using a core of salt-marsh sediment from Pelham Bay in The Bronx. Foraminifera and bulk-sediment δ13C values were used as sea-level indicators. The history of sediment accumulation was established by radiocarbon dating and recognition of pollution and land-use trends of known age in down-core elemental, isotopic, and pollen profiles. The reconstruction was generated within a Bayesian hierarchical model to accommodate multiple proxies and to provide a unified statistical framework for quantifying uncertainty. We show that RSL in NYC rose by ~1.70 m since ~575 CE (including ~0.38 m since 1850 CE). The rate of RSL rise increased markedly at 1812–1913 CE from ~1.0 to ~2.5 mm/yr, which coincides with other reconstructions along the US Atlantic coast. We investigated the possible influence of tidal-range change in Long Island Sound on our reconstruction using a regional tidal model, and we demonstrate that this effect was likely small. However, future tidal-range change could exacerbate the impacts of RSL rise in communities bordering Long Island Sound. The current rate of RSL rise is the fastest that NYC has experienced for >1500 years, and its ongoing acceleration suggests that projections of 21st-century local RSL rise will be realized.