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By Nick Harvey and Brian Caton

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The result has been a series of glacial cycles with a period of around 100 000 years, punctuated by warmer interglacial events such as our modern-day climate. the major features of the glacial–interglacial fluctuations have been outlined by Emiliani (1955), who measured oxygen isotope ratios (18O : 16O) of planktonic foraminifera extracted from deep ocean sediments. using these ratios he was able to interpret global temperature changes over time. He established a quasiperiodic cycling of climate that had recurred many more times than the four major glaciations recognised from previous northern hemisphere stratigraphic studies.

Storm surges are especially damaging at the coast when they coincide with high tide. For example, Cyclone tracy inflicted disastrous wind damage on the city of Darwin on Christmas Day 1974, but little flooding or erosion occurred because the cyclone passed over the shore at the time of low tide. Very accurate measurement of tides is undertaken by the Australian Baseline Sea Level Monitoring Project under the national greenhouse Climate Change Core Research Program. this project (and the South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project) are managed and supported from the National tidal Facility, Flinders university.

Weathering and wave energy have exploited weaknesses in the sandy limestone to cause rapid cliff recession and leading to the formation of stacks, arches and islands. The spectacular coastal scenery is the basis of a significant tourist industry along the Great Ocean Road (photography Nick Harvey) Understanding Coastal Processes 43 (m) THE LIGHTHOUSE, WILSONS PROMONTORY, VICTORIA Wilsons Promontary National Park is a large coastal wilderness with varied vegetation including temperate rainforest, heath, swamp and dune communities.

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