Orbital Forcing and Cyclic Sequences

  1. P. L. de Boer3 and
  2. D. G. Smith4
  1. P. L. de Boer1 and
  2. D. G. Smith2

Published Online: 29 APR 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9781444304039.ch1

Orbital Forcing and Cyclic Sequences

Orbital Forcing and Cyclic Sequences

How to Cite

de Boer, P. L. and Smith, D. G. (1994) Orbital Forcing and Cyclic Sequences, in Orbital Forcing and Cyclic Sequences (eds P. L. de Boer and D. G. Smith), Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444304039.ch1

Editor Information

  1. 3

    Utrecht, The Netherlands

  2. 4

    London, UK

Author Information

  1. 1

    Comparative Sedimentology Division, Institute of Earth Sciences, P.O. Box 80.021, NL-3508 TA Utrecht, The Netherlands

  2. 2

    Petroconsultants (UK) Ltd, Europa House, 266 Upper Richmond Road, Putney, London SW15 6TQ, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 29 APR 2009
  2. Published Print: 28 JAN 1994

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780632037360

Online ISBN: 9781444304039



  • orbital forcing and cyclic sequences;
  • Milankovitch cycles;
  • astronomically induced cyclicities;
  • influence of different orbital cycles;
  • ice volume and sea-level changes


Over periods of tens of thousands to millions of years, periodic changes of climate due to astronomically defined variations in the distribution of solar energy over the Earth are of influence upon the climate and upon oceanic circulation systems. This in turn may affect the production of carbonate and organic matter in marine surface waters and the oxidation and dissolution of these products in the deep ocean. Rhythmic variations in the flux of the resulting pelagic sediments are readily preserved in the deep oceanic record. However, similar reflections of regular, astronomically induced fluctuations of climate have been widely observed in other sedimentary environments, including glacial, lacustrine, fluvial, aeolian, deltaic, shallow marine, and submarine fan.

Periodic climatic and oceanographic changes and the resulting rhythmic sedimentation patterns can be preserved in the sedimentary record, providing that the sediment-supplying mechanisms (weathering and transport on the land, production of biogenic sediment in the ocean) as well as the relative sedimentary facies are sufficiently sensitive. Pelagic and lacustrine, and especially evaporitic, settings have proved to be sensitive to the influence of orbital forcing of climate. It is in such facies that, at the turn of the century, cyclicity in sedimentary sequences was recognized to be the result of orbital forcing (Gilbert, 1894; Bradley, 1929). Other sedimentary environments can be sensitive to such astronomically induced climatic variations in a similar way, but in many cases disturbing factors, such as variations in the rate of sedimentation and intermittent erosion, will obscure an otherwise clear record in the sedimentary column. Recognition of orbital cycles in environments other than the pelagic and lacustrine ones is of more recent date, but even coarse-grained alluvial fan and submarine fan environments can now be proven to bear the marks of orbitally induced climatic changes. Once demonstrated in the record, Milankovitch cycles have applications in assessing rates and durations of geological processes, and in the analysis of the palaeoclimate.