Early, Middle, and Late Miocene Basin Development, California
Steven B. Bachman
Contrary to earlier models of progressive basin development related to northward migration of the Mendocino triple junction, it can now be documented that the major basins of coastal California developed at about the same time in the late Oligocene to early Miocene. This basin development is marked by rapid deepening of basin floors, subsequent changes in depositional facies from nonmarine and shallow marine to deep marine, and widespread volcanism dated at 23-20 Ma. The coastal basins likely formed by rifting and subsidence linked to the proximity of the Farallon-Pacific spreading ridge and the subduction of hot young oceanic crust, but cannot be correlated to any existing models of triple junction migration. Indeed, strike-slip restored positions of the coastal basins at their inception indicate that the basins were spread out over about 800 km of the southern coast of California.
The Miocene basins were likely larger than the present coastal basins, although their configurations are obscured by late Neogene faulting and erosion. It is likely, however, that paleohighs separated at least some of the margin into proximal and distal basins. With local exceptions, structuring in the Miocene basins was primarily extensional, with widespread strike-slip and thrust tectonics restricted mainly to latest Miocene and younger events. Plate reconstructions suggest several hundred kilometers of transform motion occurred along the California margin during the Miocene, but there is only limited evidence of this movement in the known history of either the basins or the major faults of California.
Sedimentation during the Miocene was controlled by both oceanic conditions (biogenic component) and the relative abundance of clastic input. The clastic input was controlled by a combination of proximal vs. distal basinal positions, eustatic sea level changes, and local tectonics.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91035©1988 AAPG-SEPM-SEG Pacific Sections and SPWLA Annual Convention, Santa Barbara, California, 17-19 April 1988.