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Most early studies of the U.S. Atlantic continental margin were dominated by the concept of 'layer-cake' stratigraphy with disruptions in continuity often explained by 'yo-yo' processes of basin faulting. Recent studies now demonstrate that these two concepts are not totally satisfactory in explaining the stratigraphic patterns of the past 24-million-year history of the Atlantic margin.

During the past two decades, increasing sophistication of such tools as high-resolution seismic stratigraphy, biostratigraphic time zonations, and absolute dating techniques have provided a detailed basis for interregional correlations and environmental interpretations of upper Cenozoic lithostratigraphic units. The coastal plain and continental shelf are now recognized as parts of a coherent geologic province on a passive plate margin that have responded as an integral unit to complex sets of rapidly changing environmental conditions. The resulting upper Cenozoic sediment record is characterized by extremely variable lithologies with complex geometries and which are extensively dissected by unconformities.

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