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Bier, S.E., 2010

Structural geology and kinematics associated with the collision of the Wrangellia composite terrane and North America, south-central Alaska

Bibliographic Reference

Bier, S.E., 2010, Structural geology and kinematics associated with the collision of the Wrangellia composite terrane and North America, south-central Alaska: University Park, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. dissertation, 147 p., illust., maps.


The collision of the Insular superterrane, and thus, the Wrangellia composite terrane (WCT), with the Mesozoic margin of North America is one of the most important, yet enigmatic events in the tectonic history of North American cordillera. The location and therefore the nature of the collision of the Insular superterrane with North America remains controversial. In southern Alaska, the suture zone between the WCT and North America consists of the Kahiltna assemblage, Jurassic-Cretaceous submarine fan deposits. Structural investigation of the Kahiltna assemblage provides additional data on the kinematics of the collision and suggests an oblique collision with a significant component of right-lateral shearing. The first study of the dissertation presents the results across a transect at the northern end of Broad Pass where the depositional and deformational history of three tectonostratigraphic units enables determination of the tectonic evolution of the suture zone. The Reindeer Hills exposes mélange units that include oceanic lithologies and represent a remnant of an accretionary complex that formed during subduction prior to the collision of the WCT. Structures in the Kahiltna assemblage in the Talkeetna Mountains indicate oblique northwest-directed thrusting and right-lateral shear during the collision of the WCT. The Jack River conglomerate, a fluvial, clast-supported conglomerate, unconformably overlies the Reindeer Hills mélange and represents uplift, erosion, and deposition late in the collision. The second study is on the other side of Broad Pass, in the southern Alaska Range, and consists of a composite transect across the Peters and Dutch Hills and Chelatna Lake. Horizontal stretching lineations and steeply-dipping foliation indicate that deformation occurred during transpression as a result of an oblique collision. Strain analysis of pressure shadows indicate a counterclockwise rotation of the extension direction and thus right-lateral shearing during the collision. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that the WCT was carried on the Kula or Resurrection plate and therefore, only experienced moderate northward transport. The reversal in structural vergence between the Kahiltna assemblage of the Alaska Range basin and the Talkeetna Mountains may represent a crustal-scale triangle zone.

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