Conventional and accelerator mass spectrometry 14C ages indicate that laminated sediment in three cores from the northern California continental slope near 38°N and 39°N were deposited between 42,000 and 25,000 yr B.P. This revises and refines our previous estimates that laminated sediment accumulated during the late Pleistocene to early Holocene (J. V. Gardner and E. Hemphill-Haley, 1986, Geology 14, 691-694). Preservation of laminated sediment on the upper slope in this area suggests a period of intense coastal upwelling, high primary productivity, and resultant depletion of oxygen in bottomwaters preceding the onset of global glacial conditions. The transition from Pleistocene to Holocene conditions, and the establishment of a modern climatic regime driven by the California Current, included the incursion of the subtropical diatom, Pseudoeunotia doliola. P. doliola is common in sediment younger than about 10,000 yr and thus is a reliable marker species for identifying Holocene deposits off northern California.