Terrestrial source areas are linked to deep-sea basins by sediment-routing systems, which only recently have been studied with a holistic approach focused on terrestrial and submarine components and their interactions. Here we compare an extensive piston-core and radiocarbon-age data set from offshore southern California to contemporaneous Holocene climate proxies in order to test the hypothesis that climatic signals are rapidly propagated from source to sink in a spatially restricted sediment-routing system that includes the Santa Ana River drainage basin and the Newport deep-sea depositional system. Sediment cores demonstrate that variability in rates of Holocene deep-sea turbidite deposition is related to complex ocean-atmosphere interactions, including enhanced magnitude and frequency of the North American monsoon and El Niño–Southern Oscillation cycles, which increased precipitation and fluvial discharge in southern California. This relationship is evident because, unlike many sediment-routing systems, the Newport submarine canyon-and-channel system was consistently linked to the Santa Ana River, which maintained sediment delivery even during Holocene marine transgression and highstand. Results of this study demonstrate the efficiency of sediment transport and delivery through a spatially restricted, consistently linked routing system and the potential utility of deep-sea turbidite depositional trends as paleoclimate proxies in such settings.

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