Recent Submissions

  • Remote sensing and GIS analysis of the spatial and morphological changes of thermokarst lakes: Kolyma lowlands, northeast Siberia

    Tillapaugh, Meghan L. (2011-05)
    Thermokarst lakes develop when changes in the permafrost thermal regime cause degradation leading to surface subsidence and ponding. The degree of thermokarst development depends upon permafrost characteristics, topography, and geology. Changing thermokarst lake dynamics affect arctic ecosystems, hydrological patterns, albedo, and the carbon cycle through the mobilization of organic matter in the permafrost. This study used remote sensing and GIS techniques to relate lake dynamics in the Kolyma Lowlands, Siberia, to geology, elevation, geomorphological features, hydrology, and air temperature. Highest limnicity and largest lake sizes were found in regions with low elevation, limited alluvial processes, high ground-ice content, and lithologies with small particle sizes. New lake development and erosion occurred as well. One subregion studied showed lake area increases (Cherskii: +7.6%) while another showed a decrease (Duvanny Yar: -5.2%). Differences are attributed to variations in elevation and fluvial influences. A major cause of drainage was river tapping of lakes. Lake coalescence, flooding during river water level high stands, and lakeshore erosion were the main causes of lake expansion. The Kolyma Lowland soils have high ice and organic matter contents as well making the monitoring of thermokarst lake dynamics important as large amounts of freshwater and carbon could potentially be released.
  • Insights into deep structure and evolution of Alaska based on a decade of observations of shear wave splitting and mantle flow

    Bellesiles, Anna K. (2011-05)
    This thesis covers shear wave splitting results from a decade of temporary networks deployed throughout Alaska. The analysis and interpretation of data from the MOOS (Multidiscipline Observations Of Subduction) and ARCTIC (Alaska Receiving Cross Transect for the Inner Core) PASSCAL (Program for Array Seismic Studies of the Continental Lithosphere) deployments, combined with the previously published BEAAR (Broadband Experiment Across the Alaska Range) results provide anisotropy and flow observations across the state. In south central Alaska, a region dominated by the subduction of the Pacific plate under the North American plate, fast directions are dominantly in the direction of convergence (NNW-SSE), or trench-normal. This is either due to entrained flow below the subducting portion of the Yakutat block, or anisotropy within the block itself. Farther north above the mantle wedge the shear wave splitting results are dominated by fast directions along the strike of the subducting slab (NE-SW), due to along strike flow within the mantle wedge. North of the mantle wedge, fast directions transition into a more NNE to SSW orientation which is the Brooks Range and North slope are in the direction of absolute plate motion.
  • Developing a decision support system for emergency management services in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska

    Schaefer, Katherine E. (2012-12)
    Every year the Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB), in interior Alaska, responds to common emergencies, as well as disasters of varying types. This research first tested several geographic information systems (GIS) based network analysis models to demonstrate how these models could serve as 'decision support' tools for emergency planning and response. Six network analysis models based on FNSB data were evaluated to determine the response times of local fire stations. Each model was tested against real call times and simulated summertime fire emergency response call times to verify model accuracy. The simulated times matched the modeled predictions with remarkably high R2 values of 0.946, 0.941, and 0.940 for conditions that represented no adjustment to road data, a time penalty for slopes, and a small time penalty for all turns, respectively. The corresponding results with culled real-time call data had a much lower accuracy of 0.403, 0.429, and 0.415, respectively. The lower accuracy for real-time data was primarily due to discrepancies in response time recording protocols. This study also divided FNSB into evacuation zones and created a map book with critical infrastructure and key resources necessary for improved emergency management.
  • Applicability of synthetic aperture radar for investigating river breakup on the Kuparuk River, Northern Alaska

    Floyd, Angelica L. (2012-12)
    A combined use of remote sensing techniques and field measurements is a pragmatic approach to study Arctic hydrology, given the vastness, complexity, and logistical challenges posed by most Arctic watersheds. This study investigates the use of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to define spring breakup of the Kuparuk River on the North Slope of Alaska. A time series (years 2001-2010) of SAR images was assembled at the river mouth on the Arctic Coastal Plain. A statistical analysis was used and was limited to three variables: image brightness, variance in brightness over the river length, and a rank order analysis accomplished by segmenting the river and ranking segments in order of relative brightness. Variance was the only reliable breakup indicator of the three tested. A shorter one year temporal stack was assembled at the river's headwaters for a visual interpretation, which had limited success. Results from both analyses were calibrated with in-situ stream gauge data. River ice breakup is a highly complex process which may be defined differently by the remote sensing community and hydrologists, due to the sensitive nature of SAR, which may indicate surficial changes on the river before any discharge is recorded.
  • Alaska's shrinking glaciers: integrated glaciological research for hydrological, ecological, and environmental education applications

    Young, Joanna; Pettit, Erin; Arendt, Anthony; Conner, Laura; Hood, Eran (2020-05)
    As air temperatures in Alaska are rising, glacier melt is accelerating and affecting hydrological resources and downstream ecosystem function. The extent to which glacier loss may change hydrological regimes in coastal climates, and how that may impact nearshore marine conditions, is uncertain. Moreover, from a social-ecological standpoint, many citizens today are disconnected from these types of environmental changes, in part due to isolation from visible climate change impacts. This dissertation addresses the dual need for examining recent Alaska glacier changes and resulting hydrological and marine impacts, and for exploring education strategies that leverage glacier changes for environmental identity development. In Chapter One, I present a conceptual framework that links the physical and social sciences research herein as equal components of a social-ecological system. In Chapter Two, I use a glacio-hydrological model to uncover that coastal glaciers of the Juneau Icefield have yet to pass `peak water' delivery. I also find that between 1980 to 2016, glacier ice melt increased annually (+10%, p = 0.14) and in spring (+16%, p = 0.05), leading to changing freshwater composition. In Chapter Three, I compare modeled Mendenhall River discharge to nearshore oceanographic measurements, finding that salinity and density in the upper 15 m are strongly glacially-inuenced (10 to 30 PSU and 1010 to 1023 kg m⁻³), and that glacier runoff exerts a stronger control (r² = 0.66) than total runoff. Large, signicant trends are also detected for 1997 to 2016 August modeled glacier runoff (p = 0.02, + 15%) and observed salinity (p = 0.01, -3.2 PSU), linking these phenomena and revealing ongoing changes. Finally, in Chapter Four, I analyze social science data from youth participants in a science outreach program in a climate-impacted glacier landscape. I find that better understanding ecosystem linkages and seeing the scale of glacier loss first-hand promote environmental identity development by building relatedness and pro-environmental motivation. Together, the glaciological and environmental education research herein provides diverse perspectives on improving both scientic and citizen understanding of glacier mass loss in a changing climate.
  • Deformation microstructures, mechanisms, and history of a shear zone within the Chugach accretionary complex in the Nelchina area, South-Central Alaska

    Yakimova, Veselina T.; Nadin, Elisabeth; Mezger, Jochen; Regan, Sean (2020-05)
    Ductile-to-brittle fault zones reveal mineralogical processes that are thought to be responsible for the mechanical behavior of faults. I examined a pervasively deformed zone within the Jurassic to Cretaceous accretionary complex of southern Alaska that preserves hydrothermal alteration, dissolution precipitation, carbonaceous material (CM), clay minerals, and intracrystalline plasticity, all of which influence the strength of a fault. I characterized microstructures by SEM and EBSD, determined compositions by XRD, XRF, and Raman spectroscopy for one carbon-rich sample, and dated whole rock, rotated K-feldspar, and metamorphic muscovite by ⁴⁰Ar/³⁹Ar thermochronology to constrain the timing and conditions of accretion, uplift, and deformation recorded by this fault zone. I interpret the specific mineralogy and complex network of deformation microstructures as a result of multiple deformation events. Highest-temperature deformation recorded within the shear zone is lower greenschist facies (400-450°C). Quartz-rich clasts preserve deformation lamellae, grain bulges, sweeping undulose extinction, pressure solution, and brittle fractures characteristic of low grade (300-400°C) at the brittle-ductile transition. Brittle overprint is expressed by fractures cross-cutting the stretched quartz phacoids, and black fault rock that has entrained stretched quartz grains. Raman spectroscopy places precipitation of the CM at ~300˚C. I therefore associate the fault-rock fabrics with progressive down-temperature deformation as the fault was exhumed. I suggest that pressure solution and mineral alteration in all fault-zone samples, as well as quartz and phyllosilicate preferred orientation in a subset of the samples, indicate aseismic slip. Growth of clay and precipitation of CM reduced the friction coefficient, lowering the frictional strength and influencing the dynamic behavior of this fault zone. Constraining the relative timing of the different slip behaviors is hard to determine. It is possible they were active at the same time, especially with the increase of width and complexity at the deeper part of the fault. What is preferentially preserved in the rock record is the latest stage of slip. Pseudotachylite structures generated during earthquakes, however, are rarely preserved due to their susceptibility to alteration. In my field area, consequent exhumation and cooling lead to progressive down-temperature brittle deformation and strong hydrothermal alteration, which could have eradicated any evidence for frictional melting. Using ⁴⁰Ar/³⁹Ar thermochronometry alongside regional and local age constraints, I was able to provide some insight on timing of fault-zone and local tectonic activity. The fault lies between the McHugh Complex and Valdez Group, the two main components of the Jurassic to Cretaceous Chugach accretionary prism whose development and disruption is still debated. I interpret that fault activity lasted from ca. 120 Ma to ca. 60 Ma., and was followed by two stages of accelerated uplift and cooling during ca. 40 Ma and ca. 20 Ma. The cease of major fault activity after ca. 60 Ma, the lack of pervasive strike-slip motion indicators, and the presence of undeformed Eocene dikes as well as Eocene sediments deposited on top of both the McHugh Complex and Valdez Group, suggest they were deposited in proximity and were in place in Southern Alaska at the start of the Eocene epoch.
  • The seismic wavefield in Nenana basin and Cook Inlet basin of Alaska

    Smith, Kyle; Tape, Carl; West, Michael; Freymueller, Jeffrey; Koehler, Richard; Wartes, Marwan (2020-05)
    Sedimentary basins amplify ground motion from earthquakes which can have severe consequences for major cities on basins like Tokyo and Los Angeles. Ground motion on sedimentary basins is complex and it depends on the geometry and elastic properties. We study the seismic wavefield from ambient noise and earthquake sources in Nenana Basin and Cook Inlet Basin with seismic stations from the Fault Locations and Alaska Tectonics from Seismicity (FLATS) and Southern Alaska Lithosphere and Mantle Observation Network (SALMON) projects. The FLATS project consists of 13 seismic stations placed over the Nenana Basin region in Central Alaska from 2014 to 2019. In South-Central Alaska, 28 seismic stations were placed around the Cook Inlet Region from 2015-2017 for the SALMON project. In this thesis, we have established two valuable data sets of events that can be used to better understand the complex influence of sedimentary basins on the seismic wavefield. Our analyses help quantify the frequency-dependent amount of amplification that occurs within these sedimentary basins. A greater understanding of ambient noise can improve site selection as well as understanding other forces of nature. Many FLATS stations are near trees and a river, so we quantify the influence of river, wind and basin on ambient noise. We analyze ambient noise in the frequency domain with power spectral densities on annual, daily and hourly time scales. Rivers affect ground motion from shearing and turbulent forces. For FLATS stations within several meters of the Tanana River, we found consistent seasonal perturbations around 10 Hz. A comparison of the 10 Hz signal with river stage height, measured 14 km upriver, shows strong correlations exist during the summer and ambient noise increases by 40 dB. In the town of Nenana, a weather station shows wind occurs less during the winter than summer. Wind can directly interact with the ground through shearing forces or indirectly with the transfer of energy through trees. In this study, we found that wind can affect the ground motion by at least 10 dB for < 0.05 Hz. Basins amplify ground motion because it is easier to shear the materials. When we analyzed basin amplification from ambient noise we found that we had to correct for other noise sources like wind and river conditions. We also found that there were three classes of basin influence: Basin stations, marginal basin stations, and non-basin stations.
  • Anisotropy in the Alaska subduction zone: shear-wave splitting observations from local and teleseismic earthquakes

    Richards, Cole; Tape, Carl; West, Michael; Freymueller, Jeffrey (2020-05)
    Shear-wave splitting observations can provide insight to mantle flow due to the link between the deformation of mantle rocks and their direction dependent seismic wave velocities. We identify shear-wave anisotropy in the Cook Inlet segment of the Alaska subduction zone by analyzing splitting parameters of S phases from local intraslab earthquakes between 50 and 200 km depths and SKS waves from teleseismic events. These earthquakes were recorded from 2015-2017 (local S) and 2007-2017 (SKS) by stations from SALMON (Southern Alaska Lithosphere and Mantle Observation Network), TA (EarthScope Transportable Array), MOOS (Multidisciplinary Observations Of Subduction), AVO (Alaska Volcano Observatory), and the permanent network. Automatic phase picking (dbshear) of 12095 local earthquakes (Ml ≥ 1.5) recorded at 84 stations yielded 678 high-quality splitting measurements (filtered 0.2-1 Hz). Teleseismic SKS phases recorded at 112 stations with 26,143 event-station pairs resulted in 360 high-quality SKS splitting measurements (filtered 0.02-1 Hz and 0.01-1 Hz). Measurements for both datasets were made using the SC91 minimum eigenvalue method with software package MFAST. We compare local S and SKS splitting patterns both from previous studies and our own analysis and find that they are most similar in the far forearc, at the Kenai Peninsula, below which there is no mantle wedge. Anisotropy in the subducting Pacific lithosphere and subslab asthenosphere is likely here as both S and SKS display plate convergence fast directions and SKS measurements exhibit delay times too long (∼2 s) to be explained solely by lithospheric anisotropy. Large splitting delay times (∼0.5 s) for local measurements that mainly sample slab further indicate that the Pacific slab lithosphere contains significant anisotropy. We also observe anisotropy in the mantle wedge indicated by an increase in delay time as focal depth increases for stations with ray paths dominantly sampling wedge. These measurements display trench-perpendicular and plate convergence fast directions consistent with 2D corner flow in the mantle wedge. Both datasets show trench-parallel splitting directions in select areas of the arc/forearc that overlie parts of the mantle wedge and nose. B-type olivine in the mantle nose, subslab asthenospheric flow, flow around the slab edge, and anisotropy in the Pacific lithosphere all could be invoked to explain this pattern. While we are unable to distill the anisotropy to a single responsible structure, the sharp transition in the local S data splitting pattern from trench-perpendicular in the backarc to trench-parallel across the arc suggests B-type olivine in the mantle nose. For an overall model, we favor 2D corner flow of A-type olivine in the mantle wedge induced by downdip motion of the slab, B-type olivine in the nose, and plate convergence parallel anisotropy in the subslab asthenosphere and subducting Pacific lithosphere to explain the observed splitting patterns. It is clear that the subducting slab's structure and motion are the dominant influence on anisotropy and mantle flow regimes here. The differences in local S and SKS splitting results motivate further study on frequency dependence of splitting measurements and emphasize the need for a better understanding of which earth structures are responsible for the observed splitting patterns globally. This study constitutes the first comprehensive local splitting study in Alaska and refutes the common interpretation of along arc flow in the mantle wedge proposed by many previous splitting studies in Alaska.
  • Airborne hyperspectral imaging for wetland mapping in the Yukon Flats, Alaska

    Graham, Patrick Ryan; Prakash, Anupma; Rosselló, Jordi Cristóbal; Gens, Rudiger (2020-05)
    This study involved commissioning HySpex, a hyperspectral imaging system, on a single-engine Bush Hawk aircraft; using it to acquire images over selected regions of the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge; establishing a complete processing flow to convert raw data to radiometrically and geometrically corrected hypercubes, and further processing the data to classify wetlands. Commissioning involved designing a customized mount to simultaneously install two-camera systems, one operating in the visible and near infrared region, and the other operating in the shortwave infrared region. Flight planning incorporated special considerations in choosing the flight direction, speed, and time windows to minimize effects of the Bidirectional Reflection Distribution Function (BRDF) that are more dominant in high latitudes. BRDF effects were further minimized through a special processing step, that was added to the established hyperspectral data processing chain developed by the German Space Agency (DLR). Instrument commissioning included a test flight over the University of Alaska Fairbanks for a bore-sight calibration between the HySpex system's two cameras, and to ensure the radiometric and geometric fidelity of the acquired images. Calibration resulted in a root mean square error of 0.5 pixels or less for images acquired from both cameras at 1-meter spatial resolution for each geometrically corrected flight line. Imagery was radiometrically corrected using the ATCOR-4 software package. No field spectra of the study areas were collected due to logistics constraints. However, a visual comparison between current spectral libraries and acquired hyperspectral image spectra was used to ensure spectral quality. For wetlands mapping, a 6-category legend was established based on previous United States Geological Survey and United States Fish and Wildlife Service information and maps, and three different classification methods are used in two selected areas: hybrid classification, spectral angle mapper, and maximum likelihood. Final maps were successfully classified using a maximum likelihood method with high Kappa values and user's and producer's accuracy are more than 90% for nearly all categories. The maximum likelihood classifier generated the best wetland classification results, with a Kappa index of about 0.90. This was followed by the SAM classifier with a Kappa index of about 0.57 and lastly by the hybrid classifier that achieved a Kappa index of only 0.42. Recommendations for future work include using higher-accuracy GPS measurements to improve georectification, building a spectral library for Alaskan vegetation, collection of ground spectral measurements concurrently with flight image acquisition, and acquisition of LiDAR or RGB-photo derived digital surface models to improve classification efforts.
  • Investigating ancient bison migration in Alaska: a bottom up approach using isotopes

    Funck, Juliette Marie; Wooller, Matthew; Druckenmiller, Patrick; Hundertmark, Kris; Ruether, Joshua (2020-05)
    Once abundant in the Arctic, bison (Bison bison) declined almost to extinction in the North but have subsequently been reintroduced into Alaska. The predecessors of these modern bison were the ancient steppe bison (Bison priscus), which were abundant throughout the Northern Hemisphere before their extinction during the Holocene. This thesis investigates the ecology and landscape-use of both the present-day wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) and the ancient steppe bison in Alaska using stable isotopes, among other methods. The stable carbon and nitrogen isotope compositions of animal tissues are traditionally used to investigate diet. However, this thesis uses the isotope composition of tail hairs from present day wood bison as a proxy for their nutritional stress. Nutritional stress of some wood bison appears to be influenced not only by food shortage during hard seasons, but also due to long-distance mobility. This insight provides a key to understanding the challenges of reintroduction of the species into Alaska today, and can also be applied to understand the nutritional stress and cost of dispersal by ancient animals. Whereas the mobility of present-day bison can be tracked using sophisticated satellite tracking technologies, studies of the paleo-mobility of ancient bison rely on isotopic markers such as strontium and oxygen isotope ratios preserved in their teeth. To aid this approach using isotopic geolocation, this thesis creates a map of bioavailable strontium modeled and based on strontium isotope composition of present-day rodent teeth from across Alaska. It then compares this map, together with an existing oxygen isotope map of precipitation in Alaska, with the strontium and oxygen isotopes preserved in a suite of ancient bison from Northern Alaska. This comparison brings to light some of the major habitation regions used by Bison on the North Slope of Alaska over the last ~50,000 years. Finally, these findings subsequently contribute to a detailed paleoecological investigation of a mostly articulated and complete ancient steppe bison found on the North Slope of Alaska. This final study reveals the life-history of an individual bison that dispersed from the coastal plain to the foothills of the Brooks Range early in his life, and shows that the trip was nutritionally costly. This information is combined with a suite of other paleoecological methods to provide a vivid life history of this ancient bison. We introduce new methodologies for studying these ancient animals that seek to bridge the gap between how we study present-day and the past.
  • Effects of target properties on the formation of lunar impact craters in the simple-to-complex transition

    Chandnani, Mitali; Herrick, Robert; Kramer, Georgiana; Larsen, Jessica; Dehn, Jonathan (2019-12)
    The transition from simple to complex crater morphology in impact craters with increase in crater size has been modelled and observed in planetary bodies across the Solar System. The transition diameter depends upon the strength and gravity of the planetary body. On the Moon, this transition takes place over a diameter range of several kilometers. This range spans a diversity of crater morphologies including simple, transitional and complex craters. The diameter range of 15 20 km falls within the lunar simple-to-complex transition. All other impactor properties held constant, the 15-20 km range corresponds to a factor of three in the magnitude of impact kinetic energy. I conducted detailed geologic investigation of 244 well-preserved craters in this diameter range to elucidate the root causes of morphological variations. I used panchromatic data for observing crater and surface morphology, Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) for evaluating crater morphometry and topographic variation of pre-impact terrain, near-infrared (NIR) bands for determining the composition of crater cavity and surrounding terrain, thermal infrared bands for examining rock abundance, and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data for detecting impact melt deposits. The results of my investigation indicate that the morphological differences are primarily governed by target properties. Simple craters are confined to the highlands, and the mare are more abundant in complex craters. The mare are composed of solidified basaltic lava flows interlayered with regolith. The layering creates vertical strength heterogeneities that drive the destabilization of the transient cavity and its collapse, causing the transition to complex craters at smaller diameters in the mare. The non-layered highlands are more vertically homogeneous in strength and therefore favor simple crater formation. Eight atypically deep simple craters were identified in the highlands near the mare highlands boundaries, the most porous terrains on the lunar surface. After detailed examination of these craters in comparison to their normal-depth counterparts, I conclude that part of the energy from impact on porous target was spent in target compaction. The higher the porosity of the target, the deeper the crater and greater its volume, due to increased compaction. That only some of the craters in the high porosity terrains are deep suggests that those craters are on locally extreme-high porosity patches. However, an unusual impactor property, such as a high velocity impact, a high density impactor, or a near-vertical impact may also be a contributor. The simple craters in the highlands were observed to be located on flat or gradually sloping surfaces or degraded rims and terraces of pre-existing craters. Most craters with localized slumps superpose sharp topographic breaks such as well-developed rims and terraces of pre-existing craters. However, the topographic settings of 35% of the craters with localized slumps appeared to be similar to that of the simple craters. More detailed topographic study of the pre-impact terrains of these two morphologies revealed that the pre-impact terrains of 35% of the craters with localized slumps are gradually sloping or have subtle topographic breaks. Both sharp and subtle breaks are characterized with similar sloping directions as the adjacent craters' walls, which led to over steepening of the transient cavity walls around this part of the rim and their collapse, thereby causing the accumulation of localized slumped material. Several simple craters were also identified to have formed on pre-impact topographic breaks. However, the simple craters' walls that superpose these breaks were observed to be sloping in directions opposite to that of the breaks. So the ejecta around these walls was deposited along the break slopes, and thus syn-impact mass wasting occurred external (and not internal) to the crater cavity.
  • Constraining the H₂O/CO₂ molar ratio, the volume fraction of exsolved volatiles, and the magma compressibility of the 2006 Augustine eruption, Alaska

    Wasser, Valerie; Lopez, Taryn; Izbekov, Pavel; Larsen, Jessica; Anderson, Kyle; Freymueller, Jeffrey (2019-08)
    Geodetic modeling of volcano deformation can be used to estimate the volume of magma presumed to be mobilized within a volcanic system. These geodetically modeled subsurface reservoir volume changes are commonly much smaller than simultaneous eruptive volumes, where the eruptive volume is estimated based on geological mapping of units, their thicknesses, and their densities. This discrepancy is thought to be at least partially due to magma compressibility, which describes the phenomena where the volume of a given mass of magma changes as pressure increases/decreases primarily due to the presence of highly compressible exsolved volatiles. In this study, I combine deformation, volcanic gas, and petrologic constraints acquired prior to and during the 2006 eruption of Augustine volcano, Alaska, to estimate the amount of exsolved volatiles present in the magma storage region prior to the eruption and calculate the resulting compressibility of the magma. By doing so, I am able to constrain the H₂O/CO₂ molar ratio of the syn-eruptive gas emissions to between 24 and 59, with my best estimate of 28. My results suggest that for the specific parameters of Augustine's magmatic system, including a pressure of 120-170 MPa, a temperature of 880 ± 13 °C, and 40 ± 2% phenocrysts by volume, an exsolved volatile phase of about 8.2 vol% and a magma compressibility of ~7.1 x 10⁻¹⁰ 1/Pa are required to explain the observed eruptive volume to deformation volume ratio equal to three. The exsolved volatile volume and magma compressibility values determined here agree with results of previous studies of volatile-rich volcanic systems. This study reiterates that magma compressibility is an important factor that must be considered when interpreting deformation data within volatile-saturated volcanic systems.
  • Multi-sensor techniques for the measurement of post eruptive volcanic deformation and depositional features

    McAlpin, David B.; Meyer, Franz J.; Begét, James; Webley, Peter W.; Dehn, Jonathan (2019-08)
    Remote sensing of volcanic activity is an increasingly important tool for scientific investigation, hazard mitigation, and geophysical analysis. These studies were conducted to determine how combining remote sensing data in a multi-sensor analysis can improve our understanding of volcanic activity, depositional behavior, and the evolutionary history of past eruptive episodes. In a series of three studies, (1) optical photogrammetry and synthetic aperture radar are combined to determine volumes of lahars and lava dome growth at Redoubt Volcano, Alaska; (2) applied data from multiple synthetic aperture radar platforms are combined to model long-term deposition of pyroclastic flow deposits, including past deposits underlying current, observable pyroclastic flow deposits at Augustine Volcano, Alaska; and finally (3) combined, low-spatial-resolution thermal data from Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer sensors are combined with high resolution digital elevation models derived from the microwave TanDEM-X mission, to increase the accuracy of eruption profiles and effusion rates at Tolbachik Volcano on the Kamchatka Peninsula, Russian Far East. As a result of this study, the very diverse capabilities of multiple remote sensing instruments were combined to improve the understanding of volcanic processes at three separate locations with recent eruptive activity, and to develop new methods of measurement and estimation by merging the capabilities of optical, thermal, and microwave observations. With the multi-sensor frameworks developed in this study now in place, future efforts should focus on increasing the diversity of sensor types in joint analyses, with the objective of obtaining better solutions to geophysical questions.
  • Paleobiology of ichthyosaurs: using osteohistology to test hypotheses of growth rates and metabolism in a clade of secondarily aquatic marine tetrapods

    Anderson, Katherine L.; Druckenmiller, Patrick; Erickson, Gregory; Horstmann, Lara; Fowell, Sarah (2019-08)
    Ichthyosaurians (Ichthyosauria) are one of the most prominent groups of secondarily aquatic Mesozoic marine reptiles. Over their 160 million years of evolution, the clade evolved a streamlined body plan with paddle-like limbs, convergent with modern cetaceans. Despite the fact that ichthyosaurians have been studied by paleontologists for over a century, very little is known about aspects of their biology, including quantification of their age structure and growth rates. Multiple lines of evidence, including oxygen isotope, swimming modality, and body shape analyses suggest that ichthyosaurians experienced elevated growth rates and likely maintained an elevated body temperature relative to ambient sea water. In this dissertation, I test these hypotheses using osteohistological methods. In the first manuscript, we describe new material of the small-bodied Upper Triassic ichthyosaurian Toretocnemus from the Nehenta Formation and the Hound Island Volcanics (both Norian, Upper Triassic) of Southeast Alaska. During the Upper Triassic, ichthyosaurians experienced their greatest size disparity, with large-bodied species rivaling the size of modern blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus; 20+ m body length) living alongside small-bodied species (1 m body length) like Toretocnemus. Prior to this study, Toretocnemus was known from Carnian deposits of California and possibly Sonora, Mexico. The referred material described here expands its geographic and temporal range. There are very few known ichthyosaurians from the Norian; thus, this material sheds light on the clade's diversity before the end Triassic extinction event. In the second and third manuscripts, we use osteohistological methods to describe the microstructure of various skeletal elements of two species of Stenopterygius from the Posidonia Shale (Lower Jurassic) of Germany. The Posidonia Shale is a Konservat-Lagerstätten that preserves over 3000 ichthyosaurian specimens, approximately 80 percent of which are referable to Stenopterygius. First, we sampled over 40 skeletal elements from one individual specimen referred to Stenopterygius quadriscissus to 1) describe the mineralized tissues across the skeleton, 2) infer relative growth rate, and 3) identify elements with growth marks. Almost all elements described demonstrate fibrolamellar primary bone, indicative of a rapid growth rate. We also identify growth marks in several elements, including the dentary and premaxilla, that will be used in future growth studies. In the third manuscript, we sample a scleral ossicle from Stenopterygius triscissus to describe its microstructure and investigate the use of ossicles for skeletochronology. The use of scleral ossicles for determining age structure has been documented in extant sea turtles as well as dinosaurs. We sectioned one ossicle in three planes and document conspicuous growth banding in the short axis section. Although this method requires further testing, we tentatively determine a minimum age of 7 years at the time of death for this individual. This dissertation lays critical groundwork for future studies of the paleobiology of ichthyosaurians. We are already in the preliminary stages of using these results to 1) quantify age structure and growth rates of an ichthyosaurian (Stenopterygius quadriscissus) for the first time, and 2) test the use of scleral ossicles for skeletochronology of ichthyosaurians. Through addressing these basic aspects of ichthyosaurian biology, we can begin to investigate how ichthyosaurian development and physiology changed over time and space and develop a greater understanding of this clade's 160 million years of evolution.
  • Description, phylogenetic analysis and taphonomy of a new Thalattosaur from the Brisbois member of the Vester Formation (Carnian/Norian) of central Oregon

    Metz, Eric T.; Druckenmiller, Patrick; Fowell, Sarah; Whalen, Michael (2019-05)
    Thalattosaurs are a poorly understood group of exclusively Triassic, secondarily aquatic tetrapods. Despite being first described over a century ago, their morphology and evolutionary history has been clouded by a spotty fossil record and poor specimen preservation. Here, a new thalattosaur genus is established on the basis of newly-discovered three dimensional cranial and postcranial elements from multiple individuals of different ontogenetic stages. The specimens were found within a single calcareous conglomerate nodule from the Brisbois Member of the Vester Formation in central Oregon, USA. The Brisbois Member thalattosaur is a relatively large taxon with an estimated total length of 4 - 5 m. Numerous cranial autapomorphies help diagnose the new taxon, including a ventrally deflected rostrum bearing a rugose ornamentation. The first three dimensionally preserved thalattosaur braincase anatomy is also described along with elements from nearly every region of the postcranium. Using high resolution surface laser scans, the first three-dimensional digital reconstruction of any thalattosaur skull is presented. Phylogenetic analysis indicates the Brisbois Member thalattosaur is a basal member of Thalattosauroidea, a clade that includes other taxa with highly modified rostra from Europe and China.
  • Metal and mineral zoning and ore paragenesis at the Kensington Au-Te deposit, SE Alaska

    Heinchon, Sarah H.; Newberry, Rainer; Severin, Kenneth; Keskinen, Mary (2019-05)
    The Kensington gold mine is a structurally controlled mesothermal gold deposit at the northern end of the Juneau Gold Belt. The Kensington is the only known gold deposit where over 90% of the gold occurs as calaverite (AuTe₂) rather than native gold (Au, Ag). Calaverite and native gold occur as microscopic inclusions in pyrite. Very little geochemical work had been performed on the ore at Kensington. This project generated a large geochemical data set of metals in sulfide concentrations of the ore. To better understand this unique gold deposit I collected and analyzed 214 sulfide concentrates by X-ray fluorescence. The concentrates were collected from various locations, vein types, and sulfide textures to examine possible correlations between the different sample types and between trace metals associated with sulfides and tellurides. Kensington sulfide concentrates have a consistent and strong correlation between Au and Te that indicates 90% of the gold occurs as calaverite. I surveyed 26 polished sulfide grain mounts. There are varying amounts of native gold and calaverite, depending on the presence of non-Au telluride minerals (petzite, hessite, coloradoite, altaite, tellurobismuthite, and melonite) and Cu sulfide minerals (chalcopyrite, tetrahedrite, and bornite). The corresponding sulfide concentrates still had a consistent Au to Te ratio despite the increased observed ratio of native gold to calaverite independent of Cu or non-Au telluride associated elements. The consistent Au to Te ratio indicates a single Au-Te event, however the variable native gold to calaverite ratios and variable inclusion textures in pyrite and Cu-sulfides suggest two Au-Te events: a pre/syn-pyrite and a separate post-pyrite Au-Te event. I used an electron microprobe to generate Co maps of pyrite with varying gold and/or calaverite inclusion textures. There are multiple pyrite growth phases with two distinct pyrites: Co-rich pyrite generations (> 2 weight % Co) and Co-poor pyrite generations (< 10 ppm). Co maps distinctly show multiple generations of native gold and calaverite inclusions relative to pyrite growth. The majority of non-Au tellurides and Cu-sulfide are post-pyrite. There are three main stages of metal mineralization in the Kensington ore: Early barren pyrite; Calaverite, minor native gold, and more pyrite; Cu-sulfides and non-Au tellurides.
  • Rock and age relationships within the Talkeetna forearc subduction complex in the Nelchina area, Southern Alaska

    Barefoot, John D.; Nadin, Elisabeth; Newberry, Rainer; Keskinen, Mary; McCarthy, Paul (2018-12)
    Subduction-zone processes are challenging to study because of the rarity of good exposures and the complexity of rock relationships within accretionary prisms. In south-central Alaska, a remarkably well-preserved exposure of subduction-related outcrops is located at the foot of Nelchina Glacier. Here, the crystalline basement of the Talkeetna volcanic arc is in contact with the mélange of its associated accretionary complex along the Border Ranges fault. A new zircon U-Pb age of an amphibolite from the Talkeetna arc mid-crustal basement just north of the fault is 188.9 ± 2.2 Ma, coincident with previously published dates from the mafic section of the arc. A new amphibole ⁴⁰Ar/³⁹Ar age from the same outcrop yields a plateau age of 182.6 ± 1.3 Ma, reflecting cooling/exhumation of this part of the arc. The mélange south of the arc and the Border Ranges fault, known as the McHugh Complex, comprises sheared metasedimentary rocks, metavolcanic rocks, and chert, and in the Nelchina area it includes a roughly 100-m-diameter block of pillow lavas that are undeformed but altered. Detailed compositional data show that the pillow lava block formed in an intraplate setting. New whole-rock ⁴⁰Ar/³⁹Ar analyses of two pillow-lava samples yielded irregular plateaus with an approximate age of 60 Ma, which we interpret to be largely reset due to reheating. Hypabyssal dikes crosscut the mélange, as well as younger accretionary prism deposits in the area, and provide a new zircon U-Pb age of 53.0 ± 0.9 Ma, which coincides with ages of near-trench plutonism across southern Alaska. This plutonism has been ascribed to subduction of a spreading ridge that migrated eastward along the southern Alaska margin. These new ages constrain the McHugh Complex formation and subsequent hydrothermal alteration to pre-55 Ma. We suggest that the pillow lava was originally part of a Triassic (or earlier) seamount that was decapitated and incorporated into the mélange as the oceanic plate entered the subduction zone. The pillow lava subsequently underwent extensive hydrothermal alteration that almost completely reset its age during the ridge subduction event. We further posit that the Talkeetna volcanic arc and its associated accretionary prism sediments were in their current configuration during the ca. 55 Ma plutonism that was common throughout southern Alaska.
  • Cenozoic tectono-thermal history of the southern Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska: multiple topographic development drivers through time

    Terhune, Patrick J.; Benowitz, Jeffrey; Freymueller, Jeffrey; Gillis, Robert (2018-08)
    Intraplate mountain ranges can have polyphase topographic development histories reflecting diverse plate boundary conditions. We apply ⁴⁰Ar/³⁹Ar, apatite fission track (AFT) and apatite (U-Th)/He (AHe) geochronology-thermochronology to plutonic and volcanic rocks in the southern Talkeetna Mountains of Alaska to document regional magmatism, rock cooling and inferred exhumation patterns as proxies for the deformation history of this long-lived intraplate mountain range. High-temperature ⁴⁰Ar/³⁹Ar geochronology on muscovite, biotite and K-feldspar from Jurassic granitoids indicates post-emplacement (~158-125 Ma) cooling and Paleocene (~61 Ma) thermal resetting. ⁴⁰Ar/³⁹Ar whole rock volcanic ages and AFT cooling ages in the southern Talkeetna Mountains are predominantly Paleocene-Eocene, suggesting that the Range is partially paleotopography that formed during an earlier tectonic setting. Miocene AHe cooling ages within ~10 km of the Castle Mountain Fault suggest ~2-3 km of vertical displacement that also contributed to mountain building, likely in response to the inboard progression of the subducted Yakutat microplate. Paleocene-Eocene volcanic and exhumation ages across interior southern Alaska north of the Border Ranges Fault System are similar and show no N-S or W-E progressions, suggesting a broadly synchronous and widespread volcanic and exhumation event that conflicts with the proposed diachronous subduction of an active west-east sweeping spreading ridge beneath south-central Alaska. To reconcile this, we propose a new model for the Cenozoic tectonic evolution of southern Alaska. We infer that slab breakoff sub-parallel to the trench and subsequent mantle upwelling drove magmatism, exhumation and rock cooling synchronously across south-central Alaska and played a primary role in the development of the southern Talkeetna Mountains.
  • Gold and base metal mineralization of the Dolphin intrusion-related gold deposit, Fairbanks Mining District, Alaska

    Raymond, Luke M.; Newberry, Rainer; Larsen, Jessica; Keskinen, Mary (2018-08)
    The Dolphin deposit is an intrusion-related gold deposit (IRGD) located approximately 30 km north of Fairbanks, Alaska. The deposit is in--and adjacent to--a composite mid-Cretaceous pluton intruding amphibolite facies metamorphic rocks. An NI43-101 compliant gold resource estimation for the deposit (utilizing a 0.3 g/t cut-off grade) is 61.5 Million tonnes (Mt) at 0.69 g/t indicated (1.36 million oz = Moz) and 71.5 Mt at 0.69 g/t inferred (1.58 Moz). Due to extensive hydrothermal alteration of the intrusion, identifying rock types in hand sample and thin section, as well as by standard compositional techniques (e.g., SiO₂ vs. Na₂O + K₂O), has proven problematic. By plotting wt % TiO₂ vs. P₂O5 obtained from XRF analyses and four-acid digest ICP-MS data, two distinct population clusters appear. By comparison with least-altered intrusive rock analyses from the Fairbanks district, the igneous units were originally granite and tonalite. Because there is no gradational transition through an intermediate granodiorite unit, they were most likely derived from two separate magmatic bodies rather than in-situ fractionation from a single parent. Tonalite is concentrated along the northern and eastern margins of the stock with granite composing the rest of the body. Tonalite xenoliths in granite and granite dikes intruding tonalite prove that tonalite is the older unit. Investigations of hydrothermal alteration (based on chemical analyses, X-ray diffraction, and thin section examination) show albitic and advanced argillic (kaolinite-quartz) alteration are the dominant styles with sericite common throughout. Advanced argillic is a low temperature (<300°C) low pH alteration style that has not been previously identified in intrusion related gold deposits (IRGDs) in interior Alaska. Albitic alteration probably resulted from higher temperature, more neutral pH fluids. Gold investigations show that gold occurs as coarse-grained Au°, aurostibite, and maldonite in quartz + sulfide veins; fine-grained Au° in the oxide zone; and in many forms in disseminated sulfide. These forms include Au° inclusions in pyrite and arsenopyrite; solid-solution Au within compositionally zoned arsenopyrite; and as Au° nanoparticles in pyrite and probably arsenopyrite. Using UAF's JEOL JXA-8530F microprobe, I found that solid-solution gold occurs only in arsenopyrite with strong compositional zoning. Such grains are always small (< 0.2 mm) and commonly have low As cores; gold- bearing mantles with moderate % As; and higher As rims. In contrast, compositionally homogenous arsenopyrite does not contain detectable solid-solution gold. Pyrite is commonly arsenian and carries dissolved gold (if any) near detection limits. Gold mineralization has not been tied to any one lithology or alteration style; however, gold does seem to correlate with abrupt changes in alteration, especially between sericite + albite and kaolinite + sericite alteration. Gold-bearing, zoned arsenopyrite is predominantly associated with advanced argillic alteration and apparently represents a rapid growth, disequilibrium phenomenon.
  • Spatial and temporal variations in slip behavior beneath Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone

    Li, Shanshan; Freymueller, Jeffrey T.; Christensen, Douglas; Tape, Carl; West, Michael (2018-08)
    Characterizing spatial and temporal variations of slip behavior observed along subduction faults is of great significance for understanding the dynamics of subduction zones, features of great subduction zone earthquakes and deformation patterns across the subduction plate boundary through the seismic cycle. The Alaska-Aleutian subduction zone is one of the most tectonically active margins in the world. Great earthquakes and slow slip events recorded in this area are closely related in space. An increasingly dense array of Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers measures surface deformation at sites with high accuracy and provides a perfect tool for estimating the slip distribution on the plate boundary. GPS observations show that the motion of the Earth is not entirely linear: the long-term steady motion is interrupted by events like earthquakes, slow slip events (SSEs) and deformation of volcanoes, etc. Two long-term SSEs were detected in Lower Cook Inlet, Alaska (1992.0-2004.8 and 2009.85-2011.81) by inverting the slip distributions from GPS site velocities. The occurrence of SSEs based on the estimated slip distribution patterns provides strong evidence for the transition from stick-slip behavior to episodes and continuous aseismic creep on the subduction plate interface. Coulomb stressing rate changes (CSRC) due to the two detected long-term SSEs indicate that regions in the shallow slab (30-60 km) that experience significant increase in CSRC show an increase in seismicity rate during SSE periods. The modified quantitative rate/state stress transfer model suggests that the SSEs increase stress on surrounding faults, thereby increasing the seismicity rate even though the ratio of the SSE induced stressing rate to the background stressing rate is small. The SSEs were shown to cause significant stress changes in the seismogenic zone. This highlights the importance of exploring the relationship between SSEs and earthquakes, as well as how this relationship impacts the strain accumulation in the subduction zone. A repeat survey of the existing campaign GPS sites combined with continuous GPS sites provided a > 20 year time span for estimating the interseismic velocities of the Alaska Peninsula. From this I inferred a more precise model for the location and spatial extent of the change from locked to creeping behavior across the Alaska Peninsula. Given this more detailed distribution of the slip behavior, the results suggest that slip behavior correlates with the pre-existing plate fabric on the downgoing plate, seismic behavior, the reflection character of the slab interface itself and the rupture history of past great earthquakes.

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