Sedimentary Record of the California Current System, Middle Miocene to Holocene: A Synthesis of Leg 167 Results

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Conference Proceeding

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During Ocean Drilling Program Leg 167, the California continental margin was drilled from about 30°N to 42°N to sample high-resolution paleoceanographic and paleoclimatic records in the California Current system. Because of typically high sedimentation rates along the margin (80 to >200 m/m.y.), drilling has proved necessary to collect late Pleistocene sedimentary records that usually are sampled by standard piston cores in other oceanic regions. Triple piston coring on Leg 167 enabled us to construct continuous submillennial paleoceanographic records to about 2 Ma. In the offshore drill sites, continuous records were constructed into the Miocene. The oldest sediments recovered on Leg 167 have an age of ~14 Ma.

The California margin has an active diagenetic system driven by the degradation of organic matter. Leg 167 drilling provided a means to quantify the diagenetic processes within the deep sediment column and to study the links between sediment diagenesis and primary productivity.

This synthesis chapter also documents the oceanographic variability along the California margin at all time scales, from 103 to 106 yr. Millennial-scale variability is found in Santa Barbara Basin (drilled during Leg 146) and in nearby basins drilled during Leg 167. Leg 167 cores also captured millennial-scale variability in the northern and central California margin. Orbitally forced insolation changes invoke a strong response throughout the California margin. Sea-surface temperature (SST) measured by the alkenone paleothermometer is highly coherent with the oxygen isotope record, being cold in glacials and much warmer in interglacials. Faunal and floral plankton assemblages vary strongly on the glacial-interglacial scale. Coastal plant communities show a glacial-interglacial variability that is most pronounced in the north, near the Cordilleran Ice Sheet.

Major changes in the sediments prior to the Pleistocene mark major late Neogene oceanographic events. Opaline silica burial in the middle and upper Miocene sections have step-like drops from high opal deposition in the middle Miocene. One major drop occurs at ~11 Ma and is roughly correlative with the eastern equatorial Pacific Miocene carbonate crash. A second major drop occurs at about 8 Ma, equivalent in age to the end of the Monterey Formation. A third drop occurs slightly younger than the end of the Miocene.

A lower Pliocene interval, roughly from 5 to 4.2 Ma, is low in all biogenic components. It separates the Miocene high-opal sediments from upper Pliocene high-carbonate sediments. High CaCO3 deposition occurred all along the entire California margin in the late Pliocene, but CaCO3 burial dropped abruptly with the beginning of Northern Hemisphere glaciation (2.6 Ma).