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The Monterey Formation, consisting of siliceous and calcareous biogenic sediments, was deposited during the transition from a relatively warm greenhouse climate in the early Miocene to the cooler temperatures of icehouse climatic conditions during the early middle to late Miocene. This cooling event was associated with global paleoclimatic and oceanic changes assumed to be related to the deposition of organic carbon–rich sediments into the marginal basins of California.

This chapter introduces an age model for the Miocene strata at Naples Beach based on a composite stratigraphic section and standardized data set, providing the framework for the integration of biostratigraphic zones with a series of astronomically tuned siliceous and calcareous microfossil bioevents, an updated strontium isotope stratigraphy, new tephrochronology ages, and ages from specific magnetostratigraphic units. This multidisciplinary approach, utilizing the integration of microfossil disciplines with independent age controls, is critical to obtaining an age resolution of ~200 k.y. for the majority of the Monterey Formation section.

This chronostratigraphic framework improves the age control of the boundaries between the California benthic foraminiferal stages and provides more age refinement for the possible hiatus and condensed interval within the Carbonaceous Marl member of the Monterey Formation. The recalibrated ages for the tops of the Miocene benthic foraminiferal stages are Saucesian (ca. 17.4 Ma), Relizian (15.9 Ma), Luisian (13.1 Ma), and Mohnian (7.7 Ma). Also, the time missing in the hiatus between the Luisian and Mohnian is <200 k.y., and the duration of the condensed interval is from 13.0 to 11 Ma.

This refined age model provides a correlation of the organic carbon–rich intervals occurring in the Luisian and lower Mohnian stages within the Naples Beach strata to the deep-sea δ13C maxima events CM5 (ca. 14.7 Ma) and CM6 (ca. 13.6 Ma), suggesting episodic increases in organic carbon deposition along the continental margins coincided with the Miocene carbon isotope excursion found in deep-sea cores. The transition from the Miocene climatic optimum to the icehouse world consisted of four climatic and oceanic phases (from ca. 17.5 to ca. 7 Ma), which are represented in the onshore section by variations in the organic carbon and phosphate contents, the occurrence of calcareous and siliceous lithologic facies, and the distribution of microfossils, especially changes in the benthic foraminiferal assemblages.

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