Fourth-order relative sea level changes may have a significant impact upon burial diagenesis and reservoir quality through their effect upon surface and subsurface temperature. Relative sea level changes can induce sediment surface temperature changes of <20°C when the sediment surface changes from being close to or beneath the thermocline to being sub-aerially exposed. Such sea level changes typically occur on a timescale of half a million years. Approximately one quarter to one third of the magnitude of these temperature fluctuations will be propagated to 2500 m in the subsurface. Shorter timescale fluctuations of similar magnitude, resulting from glaciation, will not be significant below ~1000 m burial as there is not enough time to effect the change before the next surface temperature cycle occurs. Diagenesis is strongly controlled by temperature through its impact on the driving force and rate of geochemical processes. Burial diagenesis and cementation may thus be episodic on timescales associated with sequence stratigraphic events occurring on the surface, thousands of metres above the zone where diagenesis is occurring.