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Published March 1999 | Published
Journal Article Open

A sea-level test for inertial interchange true polar wander events


The possibility of inertial interchange true polar wander (IITPW) events, in which the rotation pole moves 90° with respect to the solid Earth in a matter of ∼10 Myr, has been discussed in the geophysical literature for more than three decades. Recent evidence for an IITPW event in Early Cambrian time has renewed interest in the issue; however, the veracity of supporting palaeomagnetic evidence remains a matter of significant debate. We propose that sea-level variations driven by polar wander provide an important independent test for the occurrence of IITPW events. Our numerical simulations of the response of a viscoelastic planet to an IITPW-induced forcing predict sea-level changes of up to 200 m, depending on the details of the earth model, the location of the site relative to the rotation path and the elapsed time for the reorientation of the pole. A preliminary comparison of our predictions to Early–Middle Cambrian sea-level records for Australia, Laurentia and Baltica shows qualitative agreement. This comparison suggests that a definitive test for the Cambrian IITPW hypothesis is possible given a sufficiently accurate, and globally distributed, database of sea-level histories.

Additional Information

© 1999 RAS. Accepted 1998 November 25. Received in original form 1998 October 7. Article first published online: 23 Feb. 2002.

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Published - j.1365-246x.1999.00791.x.pdf


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