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NJ Shallow Shelf – Expedition 313

New Jersey Shallow Shelf Drilling

The New Jersey-Delaware Coastal Plain Drilling Project: Reconstructing Global Sea Level Changes

Kenneth G. Miller, J.V. Browning, and G.S. Mountain  Rutgers University

P.J. Sugarman New Jersey Geological Survey

P.P. McLaughlin Delaware Geological Survey

M.A. Kominz Western Michigan University

The passive continental margin of the Mid-Atlantic U.S. provides a natural laboratory for evaluating the effects of global sea level, thermoflexural subsidence, and sediment supply on the stratigraphic record of the past 100 million years. Drilling onshore in the New Jersey and Delaware Coastal Plains (onshore Ocean Drilling Program [ODP] Legs 150X and 174AX) has provided 13 continuously cored sites funded by NSF/EAR Continental Dynamics, NSF/OCE Ocean Drilling, the New Jersey Geological Survey, the Delaware Geological Survey, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Drilling onshore at 12 sites of typically 1500 ft was done by the USGS Eastern Earth Surface Processes Team (EESPT). DOSECC was contracted in 1996 to drill one deep hole (2000 ft) at Bass River that provided the greatest insights due to its penetration of thick, downdip sections. Offshore drilling on the NJ shelf and slope as conducted by the ODP Legs 150 and 174A have shown that many of these sequences are regionally correlative.

Together, over 10,000 ft of core onshore yielded the following scientific accomplishments:

  • Ages and paleoenvironmental changes associated with 14 Miocene, 8 Oligocene, 12 Eocene, 7 Paleocene, and 15-17 Late Cretaceous sequences (Miller et al., 1996, 2004, 2005; Browning et al., 2006);
  • Causal links between the formation of sequence boundaries and the growth of ice sheets between ca. 42 and ca. 10 Ma, and suggestions that such a link exists in the older, supposedly ice-free world (e.g., ca. 71 Ma; Miller et al., 1996, 2003, 2004, 2005);
  • Estimates of the amplitudes of global sea-level changes (Miller et al., 2005, Kominz et al., 2008);
  • Timing of major sea level falls and generation of new sea level curves for the Late Cretaceous to Recent (Miller et al., 2005, Kominz et al., 2008);


New Jersey Shallow Shelf Drilling

Distribution of sediments in sequences as a function of time. Sea level curve in blue from Miller et al. (2005). Sea-level curve in brown from Kominz et al., (this volume). Red oxygen isotopic curve from Miller et al. (2005). Depositional phases are described in the text BB-Bethany Beach core, CM-Cape May core, CZ-Cape May Zoo core, OV-Ocean View core, AC-Atlantic city core, IB-Island Beach core, AN-Ancora core, SG-Sea Girt core, MV-Millville core, BR-Bass River core, FM-Fort Mott core. NHIS-Northern Hemisphere Ice Sheets.

New Jersey Shallow Shelf Drilling1

Bass River borehole K/T boundary core showing spherule layer separating uppermost Maastrichtian and lowermost Paleocene and microfossil biostratigraphy. Note burrows in the Maastrichtian and clay clasts in the lower 6 cm of the Paleocene (from Schultz and D’Hondt, 1996).

  • Evaluation of links among sequence stratigraphic architecture, global sea-level variations, and margin evolution (Miller et al., 1996, 2004, 2005; Browning et al., 2006); and
  • Constraints on the causes of major global events in Earth history, including the middle Eocene-earliest Oligocene global cooling (Miller et al., 2008), the late Paleocene thermal maximum (Cramer et al., 1999), the K/T boundary (Olsson et al., 1997, 2002), early and late Maastrichtian events (Olsson et al., 2002), and the Cenomanian/Turonian carbon extraction event (Sugarman et al., 1999).

DOSECC’s involvement in coastal plain drilling proved critical because the Bass River corehole provided the best representation of these global events and because DOSECC will be spearheading efforts on IODP Expedition 313 to drill the shallow NJ shelf.


Browning, J.V., Miller, K.G., McLaughlin, P.P., Kominz, M.A., Sugarman, P.J., Monteverde, D., Feigenson, M.D., and Hernàndez, J.C., 2006, Quantification of the effects of eustasy, subsidence, and sediment supply on Miocene sequences, Mid-Atlantic margin of the United States: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 118, p. 567-588.

Cramer, B.S., Aubry, M.-P., Miller, K.G., Olsson, R.K., Wright, J.D., and Kent, D.V., 1999, An exceptional chronologic, isotopic, and clay mineralogic record of the latest Paleocene thermal maximum, Bass River, NJ, ODP 174AX: Geological Society of France, Bulletin, v. 170, p. 883-897.

Kominz, M.A., Miller, K.G., and Browning, J.V., 1998, Long-term and short-term global Cenozoic sea-level estimates: Geology, v. 26, p. 311-314.

Kominz, M.A., Browning, J.V., Miller, K.G., Sugarman, P.J., Misintseva, S., and Scotese, C.R., 2008, Late Cretaceous to Miocene sea-level estimates from the New Jersey and Delaware coastal plain coreholes: an error analysis: Basin Research, v. 20, p. 211-226.

Miller, K.G., Mountain, G.S., the Leg 150 Shipboard Party, and Members of the New Jersey Coastal Plain Drilling Project, 1996, Drilling and dating New Jersey Oligocene-Miocene sequences: Ice volume, global sea level, and Exxon records: Science, v. 271, p. 1092-1094.

Miller, K.G., Browning, J.V., Pekar, S.F., and Sugarman, P.J., 1997, Cenozoic evolution of the New Jersey Coastal Plain: Changes in sea level, tectonics, and sediment supply, in Miller, K.G., and Snyder, S.W. eds., Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program, Scientific results, Volume 150X: College Station, Texas, Ocean Drilling Program, p. 361-373.

Miller, K.G., Browning, J.V., Sugarman, P.J., McLaughlin, P.P., Kominz, M.A., Olsson, R.K., Wright, J.D., Cramer, B.S., Pekar, S.F., Van Sickel, W., 2003, 174AX leg summary: Sequences, sea level, tectonics, and aquifer resources: Coastal plain drilling, in Miller, K.G., Sugarman, P.J., Browning, J.V., et al., eds., Proceedings of the Ocean Drilling Program, Initial Reports, 174AX (Supplement): College Station TX (Ocean Drilling Program), 1-38.

Miller, K.G., Sugarman, P.J., Browning, J.V., Kominz, M.A., Olsson, R.K., Feigenson, M.D., Hernàndez, J.C., 2004, Upper Cretaceous sequences and sea-level history, New Jersey coastal plain: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 116, p. 368-393.

Miller, K.G., Kominz, M.A., Browning, J.V., Wright, J.D., Mountain, G.S., Katz, M.E., Sugarman, P.J., Cramer, B.S., Christie-Blick, N., and Pekar, S.F., 2005, The Phanerozoic record of global sea-level change: Science, v. 310, p. 1293-1298.

Miller, K.G., Browning, J.V., Aubry, M.-P., Wade, B.S., Katz, M.E., Kulpecz, A.A., Wright, J.D., 2008, Eocene-Oligocene global climate and sea-level changes: St. Stephens Quarry, Alabama: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 120, p. 34-53 doi: 10.1130/B26105.1.

Olsson, R.K., and Wise, S.W., Jr., 1987, Upper Paleocene to middle Eocene depositional sequences and hiatuses in the New Jersey Atlantic Margin, in Ross, C., and Haman, D., eds., Timing and depositional history of eustatic sequences: constraints on seismic stratigraphy: Special Publication of the Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research 24, p. 99-112.

Olsson, R.K., Miller, K.G., Browning, J.V., Wright, J.D., and Cramer, B.S., 2002, Sequence stratigraphy and sea-level change across the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary on the New Jersey passive margin: Geological Society of America Special Paper 356, p. 97-108.

Schultz, P. H., and S. D’Hondt, Cretaceous-Tertiary (Chicxulub) impact angle and its consequences, Geology, 24, 963-967, 1996.

Sugarman, P.J., Miller, K.G., Olsson, R.K., Browning, J.V., Wright, J.D., De Romero, L., White, T.S., Muller, F.L., Uptegrove, J., 1999, The Cenomanian/Turonian carbon burial event, Bass River, NJ: Geochemical, paleoecological, and sea-level changes: Journal of Foraminiferal Research, v. 29, p. 438-452.

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Block Island, Rhode Island Coast


Geotechnical Drilling Project at Block Island

Geotechnical Drilling Project at Block Island

Source: Fortune.com

This geotechnical drilling project at Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island was done in tandem with the New Jersey Shallow Shelf Geotechnical Drilling Project – Expedition 313.  GZA GeoEnvironmental retained DOSECC geotechnical drilling services to conduct site studies for offshore wind development off of Rhode Island by Deepwater Wind.

Update 2016: This project went on to become the first offshore wind farm in the United States, going online in October, 2016.

North America Finally Has Its First Offshore Wind Farm – Huffington PostNov 3, 2016

Offshore Deepwater Wind Farm To Begin Operation This Month – Manufacturing.netNov 3, 2016

US offshore wind farm debuts, with lessons learned from oil industry – Agri-PulseNov 3, 2016

Rhode Island Gears Up For First Electricity From Block Island Wind … – CleanTechnicaOct 27, 2016

Providence’s Deepwater Wind leads the way in U.S. offshore power – The Providence JournalOct 28, 2016

Why the Country’s First Offshore Wind Farm Is Such a Big Deal – FortuneOct 26, 2016

Why Rhode Island Wind Power Leads the Nation – Efficient Gov (press release) (blog)Oct 26, 2016

AWEA Brings Industry Stakeholders Together To Talk Offshore Wind – North American WindpowerOct 28, 2016