New high-precision thermal ionization mass-spectrometric (TIMS) U-series ages of solitary corals (Balanophyllia elegans) from several marine terrace localities along the California and southern Oregon coasts date to the ???80,000 yr BP high stand of sea, correlative with marine isotope substage 5a, late in the last interglacial complex. Ages of multiple corals from localities north of Point An??o Nuevo (central California) and San Nicolas Island (southern California) suggest that this high sea stand could have lasted at least 8000 yr, from ???84,000 to ???76,000 yr BP. These ages overlap with those from marine deposits on tectonically stable Bermuda and tectonically emergent Barbados. Higher-elevation terraces at two California localities, in the Palos Verdes Hills and on San Nicolas Island, have corals with ages that range mostly from ???121,000 to ???116,000 yr BP, correlative with marine isotope substage 5e. These ages are similar to those reported for other terraces in southern California but are younger than some ages reported from Hawaii, Barbados and the Bahamas. Marine terrace faunas are excellent proxies for nearshore marine paleotemperatures during past high sea stands. Terraces on the Palos Verdes Hills and San Nicolas Island dated to the ???120,000 yr BP high sea stand have dominantly zoogeographically "neutral" species in exposed coastal localities, indicating nearshore waters similar to those of today. In contrast, ???80,000 yr BP, exposed coastal localities typically have molluscan faunas characterized by numerous extralimital northern species and a lack of extralimital southern species. These fossil assemblages are indicative of nearshore water temperatures that were cooler than modern temperatures at ???80,000 yr BP. Waters at least as warm as today's at ???120,000 yr BP and cooler than present at ???80,000 yr BP are in excellent agreement with marine alkenone records and coastal vegetation records derived from pollen data, from both southern and northern California. Decreased insolation or increased upwelling seem inadequate to explain the cool waters off the Pacific Coast from southern Oregon to southern California at ???80,000 yr BP. We propose that a stronger California Current (or at least one with a greater component of subarctic waters) may explain cooler-than-modern coastal waters during the ???80,000 yr BP high sea stand. ?? 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.