The dinoflagellate cyst record from Ocean Drilling Program Hole 893A, Santa Barbara Basin, southern California, is examined at millennial-scale resolution for the past ∼40 kyr. Changes in cyst abundance, composition of cyst assemblages, and their diversity reflect major shifts in climate and ocean circulation in the region over this time interval. Throughout the sequence, dinoflagellate cyst assemblages are dominated by heterotrophic dinoflagellates. Brigantedinium spp. and other upwelling-related taxa such as Echinidinium and Protoperidinium americanum are abundant, indicating the continued influence of coastal upwelling on the basin during the late Quaternary. A significant increase in cyst accumulation rates is seen during the Holocene and, to a lesser extent, during shorter warming events such as Bolling/Allerod and Dansgaard-Oeschger interstadials, implying enhanced marine productivity during these periods. Cyst diversity is high during the Holocene. An increase in abundance of cysts produced by autotrophic dinoflagellates in the late Holocene suggests enhanced input of warm, nutrient-rich waters. In contrast, cyst assemblages from the Last Glacial Maximum exhibit a relatively low diversity and an increase in the cysts of heterotrophic dinoflagellates, in particular Selenopemphix nephroides. The presence of this taxon in association with Brigantedinium spp. implies substantial cooling of surface waters in the Santa Barbara Basin at that time.