Relative Sea Level Rise, Palaeotopography and Transgression Velocity on the Continental Shelf

  • Francesco Latino Chiocci
  • Daniele CasalboreEmail author
  • Francesca Marra
  • Fabrizio Antonioli
  • Claudia Romagnoli
Part of the Coastal Research Library book series (COASTALRL, volume 20)


After the Last Glacial Maximum, some 21,000 years BP, the sea level rose from −130 m to its present-day position. This process of marine transgression inundated or eroded palaeolandscapes to varying degrees, resulting in the landward movement of the shoreline. The transgression velocity (TV), i.e., the velocity at which the shoreline migrated landwards, depends on evaluating the balance between the rate of relative sea level rise and the slope of the transgressed palaeotopography. It has a key role in determining the possibilities for reconstructing palaeoenvironments, the potential preservation of archaeological sites and the socio-economic and psychological impact of sea-level rise on past human populations. In this chapter we present a simple conceptual and computational approach to reconstructing the transgression velocity on shelf areas, making use of Digital Terrain Models (DTMs) of seafloor topography coupled with relative sea level curves, and discuss the different outcomes and limitations at different spatial scales, ranging from the continental (European seas) to the ultra-local scale.


Seafloor morphology Underwater prehistoric archaeology Sea-level curve Computer modelling Palaeolandscapes European seas 



The ideas expressed in this paper have benefited from discussion with Nic Flemming and other SPLASHCOS participants. We also thank Francesca Argiolas for developing the preliminary MATLAB routine, and Francesco Falese for providing material for the figures. For Figs. 3.5 and 3.6, the Digital Terrain Model data products have been derived from the EMODnet Bathymetry portal at We also gratefully acknowledge anonymous reviewers and Geoff Bailey for their helpful suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesco Latino Chiocci
    • 1
    • 2
  • Daniele Casalbore
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Francesca Marra
    • 1
  • Fabrizio Antonioli
    • 3
  • Claudia Romagnoli
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Earth ScienceUniversity of Rome La SapienzaRomeItaly
  2. 2.Institute of Environmental Geology and Geoengineering, National Research Council (CNR IGAG)RomeItaly
  3. 3.Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA)RomeItaly
  4. 4.Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly

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