A gray silt layer 1–2 cm thick in the central Santa Barbara Basin, dated by varve counts to A.D. 1605 ± 5 yr, implies an intensity of precipitation, flooding of regional rivers, and transport of terrigenous detritus unmatched in the last 1000 yr. The inferred flood may correlate with the reported rare occurrence of a perennial lake (14C dated to 390 ± 90 B.P.) in California's Mojave Desert, 300 km east of the area draining into the Santa Barbara Basin. The dating of the A.D. 1605 ± 5 yr flood event is consistent with tree-ring evidence for a wet and cold paleoclimate elsewhere in the region. Regional and global climate evidence indicates that much of the world also experienced rapid, intense cooling around A.D. 1605. This cooling was probably accompanied by an equatorward shift of prevailing wind patterns and associated storm tracks.