The detailed structure and timing of the penultimate deglaciation are insufficiently defined yet critical for understanding mechanisms responsible for abrupt climate change. Here we present oxygen isotope records (from planktonic and benthic foraminifera) at unprecedented resolution encompassing late marine oxygen isotope stage (MIS) 6 and Termination II (ca. 150–120 ka) from the Santa Barbara Basin, supported by additional southern California margin records, a region highly sensitive to millennial-scale climate oscillations during the last deglaciation. These records reveal millennial- and centennial-scale climate variability throughout the interval, including an interstadial immediately preceding the deglaciation, a brief warm event near the beginning of Termination II, and a Bølling-Allerød–Younger Dryas–like climate oscillation midway through the deglaciation. Recognition of these events in an oxygen isotope record from a 230Th-dated stalagmite allows the adoption of this radiometric chronology for the California margin records. This chronology supports the Milankovitch theory of deglaciation. The suborbital history of climate variability during Termination II may account for records of early deglaciation.

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