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El Nino-Like Events During Miocene

Richard E. Casey, Carl O. Nelson, Amy L. Weinheimer, Paul A. Oeth, Robert J. Swanson

El Nino-like events have been recorded from the Miocene laminated siliceous facies of the Monterey Formation. These El Nino-like Miocene events are compared to El Nino events recorded from Holocene varved sediments deposited within the anoxic Santa Barbara basin. Strong El Nino events can be recognized from Holocene Santa Barbara basin sediments by increases in radiolarian flux to the sea floor during those events. For the last 100-plus years, frequency of strong El Ninos has been on the order of one extremely strong event about every 100 years, and one easily recognizable event about every 18 years. Frequencies in the laminated (varved) Miocene range from about every 4-5 years to over 20 years. The higher frequencies occur within generally warm intervals and the lower fr quencies within generally cold intervals. Perhaps the frequencies of these events may, in fact, be an important indicator in determining whether the intervals were cold or warm. Reconstructions of the paleo-California Current system during El Nino-like periods have been made for the west coast from the Gulf of California to northern California. Strong El Nino-like events occurred 5.5 and 8 Ma, and a strong anti-El Nino-like event occurred at about 6.5 Ma. Evidence from the 5.5 and 8 Ma events combined with other evidence suggests that modern El Ninos, similar to today's, were initiated at 5.5 Ma or earlier.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91035©1988 AAPG-SEPM-SEG Pacific Sections and SPWLA Annual Convention, Santa Barbara, California, 17-19 April 1988.