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Kalbas, J.L., 2006

Geological and geodynamic investigations of Alaskan tectonics: Responses in the ancient and modern geologic records to oblique plate convergence

Bibliographic Reference

Kalbas, J.L., 2006, Geological and geodynamic investigations of Alaskan tectonics: Responses in the ancient and modern geologic records to oblique plate convergence: West Layfayette, Indiana, Purdue University, Ph.D. dissertation, 495 p., illust., maps.


Stratigraphic, structural, and geophysical modeling studies focusing on both the Mesozoic and modern development of southern Alaska aid in understanding the nature of tectonic responses to oblique plate convergence. Analyses of the Lower to Upper (?) Cretaceous Kahiltna assemblage of the western Alaska Range and the Upper Cretaceous Kuskokwim Group of the northern Kuskokwim Mountains provide a stratigraphic record of orogenic growth in southwestern Alaska. The Kahiltna assemblage records dominantly west-directed gravity-flow transport of sediment to the axis of an obliquely closing basin that made up the suture zone between the allochthonous Wrangellia composite terrane and the North American pericratonic margin. Stratigraphic, compositional, and geochronologic analyses suggest that submarine-fan systems of the Kahiltna basin were fed from the subaerial suture zone and contain detrital grains derived from both allochthonous and pericratonic sources, thereby implying a relatively close proximity of the island-arc terrane to the North American margin by late Early Cretaceous time. In contrast, Upper Cretaceous strata exposed immediately west of the Kahiltna assemblage record marine deposition during a period of transition from island arc accretion to strike-slip tectonics. The new stratigraphic model presented here recognizes diverse bathyal- to shelfal-marine depositional systems within the Kuskokwim Group that represent distinctive regional sediment entry points to the basin. Collectively, these strata suggest that the Kuskokwim Group represents the waning stages of marine deposition in a long-lived intra-oceanic and continental margin basin. Geodynamic studies focus on the mechanics of contemporary fault systems in southern Alaska inboard of the collisional Yakutat microplate. Finite-element analyses predict that a poorly understood Holocene strike-slip fault in the St. Elias Mountains transfers shear from the Queen Charlotte fault northward to the Denali fault, thereby forming a continuous transform system that accommodates right-lateral motion of the Pacific plate and Yakutat microplate relative to the stable North American craton. Although the best-fit model implies some component of anelastic deformation in the vicinity of the St. Elias Mountains and the western Alaska Range, results imply overall block-like behavior throughout the area of interest.

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