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Cenozoic Geologic Events


The Cenozoic era is the current and most recent of the three Phanerozoic geological eras and covers the period from 65.5 mya to the present. The era began in the wake of the Cretaceous – Tertiary extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous that saw the demise of the last non-avian dinosaurs and the end of the Mesozoic era. The Cenozoic is also known as the Age of Mammals. The era is ongoing. The Cenozoic Era is only 1.5% of geologic time. It was long enough for significant changes to occur

–as plates changed position
–mountains and landscapes continued to develop,
–an ice age took place,
–and the biota evolved.
Geologists divide the Cenozoic Era into two periods of unequal duration;
Paleogene Period (66 to 23 million years ago)
  • Paleocene
  • Eocene
  • Oligocene
  • Miocene
  • Pliocene
and Neogene Period (23 million years to the present)
  • Pleistocene
  • Holocene (Recent)

Cenozoic Geologic Events

Paleocene Epoch (65-55 million years ago)

  • Vast inland seas dry up, exposing lands in North America and Eurasia.
  • Australia continued to separate from Antarctica
  • Greenland splits from North America.
  • A remnant Tethys Sea persists in the equatorial region

Eocene Epoch (55-34 million years ago)

  • The Atlantic ocean formed
  • Continental collisions between India and Asia culminate in the Alpine-Himalayan mountain system.
  • Antarctica and Australia continue to separate and drift apart

Oligocene Epoch (34-24 million years ago)

  • Plate Tectonic was very dynamic.
  • Africa and Europe nearly collide, closing the Tethys Sea.
  • Volcanism and fragmentation of western North America
  • The southern ocean forms

Miocene Epoch (24-5 million years ago)

  • Modern ocean currents are essentially established.
  • A drop in sea level near the end of the Epoch , isolates and dries up the Mediterranean Sea

Pliocene Epoch (5-1.8 million years ago)

  • Plate tectonic interactions result in the uplift of the Sierra Nevada
  • Formation of the Cascade Range, and onset of strike-slip faulting on the San Andreas Fault
  • In Europe, the Alps continue to rise.

Pleistocene Epoch (1.8 million-10,000 years ago)

  • This epoch is best known as the “Great Ice Age.“
  • 30% of the Earth’s surface is covered by glaciers, and parts of the northern oceans are frozen.

Holocene Epoch (10,000 years ago to the present)

  • During this time, the glaciers retreat
  • Sea level rise continue to rise

According to the above discussion the major themes of Cenozoic Geologic Events:

  •  Overall climatic cooling (“greenhouse to icehouse”)
  • Changes in ocean circulation
  • Pangea breakup continues but slows
  • Changes in position of land and sea
  • Changes in oceanic nutrient levels
  • Mountains and landscapes continued to develop
  • Plates changed position

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