• Active Tectonics In Southern Alaska And The Role Of The Yakutat Block Constrained By Gps Measurements

      Elliott, Julie; Freymueller, Jeff (2011)
      GPS data from southern Alaska and the northern Canadian Cordillera have helped redefine the region's tectonic landscape. Instead of a comparatively simple interaction between the Pacific and North American plates, with relative motion accommodated on a single boundary fault, the margin is made up of a number of small blocks and deformation zones with relative motion distributed across a variety of structures. Much of this complexity can be attributed to the Yakutat block, an allochthonous terrane that has been colliding with southern Alaska since the Miocene. This thesis presents GPS data from across the region and uses it to constrain a tectonic model for the Yakutat block collision and its effects on southern Alaska and eastern Canada. The Yakutat block itself moves NNW at a rate of 50 mm/yr. Along its eastern edge, the Yakutat block is fragmenting into small crustal slivers. Part of the strain from the collision is transferred east of the Fairweather -- Queen Charlotte fault system, causing the region inboard of the Fairweather fault to undergo a distinct clockwise rotation into the northern Canadian Cordillera. About 5% of the relative motion is transferred even further east, causing small northeasterly motions well into the northern Cordillera. Further north, the GPS data and model results indicate that the current deformation front between the Yakutat block and southern Alaska runs along the western side of the Malaspina Glacier. The majority of the ~37 mm/yr of relative convergence is accommodated along a narrow band of thrust faults concentrated in the southeastern part of the St. Elias orogen. Near the Bering Glacier, the tectonic regime abruptly changes as crustal thrust faults give way to subduction of the Yakutat block beneath the western St. Elias orogen and Prince William Sound. This change aligns with the Gulf of Alaska shear zone, implying that the Pacific plate is fragmenting in response to the Yakutat collision. The Bering Glacier region is undergoing internal deformation and may represent the final stage of accretion of the Yakutat block sedimentary layers. Further west, modeled block motions suggest the crust is laterally escaping along the Aleutian forearc.
    • Crustal Thickness Variation In South Central Alaska: Results From Broadband Experiment Across The Alaska Range

      Veenstra, Elizabeth (2009)
      The Broadband Experiment Across the Alaska Range (BEAAR) was a passive source seismic study in which 36 three-component broadband seismic stations were deployed over a period of 27 months to collect high quality data to study the Alaska Range and perhaps elucidate tectonic processes. The wavetrain of a teleseismic body wave may be interpreted in terms of reflection and transmission of waves converted at discontinuities. The recorded signal may be regarded as a convolution of the source-time function, the receiver function, and the instrument response. A receiver function is the contribution to the seismic waveform recorded at a single station due to the response of local crustal structure, and can be inverted for vertical velocity structure beneath the three-component broadband seismic station. Receiver function analyses reveal typical crust beneath the lowlands north of the Alaska Range is 26 km thick, while beneath the mountains typical crust is 35--45 km thick. Receiver function analysis of ~15,000 teleseismic waveforms recorded by BEAAR broadband seismometers provided over 100 crustal thickness data points. Similarity between crustal thicknesses determined from receiver function analysis and crustal thicknesses predicted from topography assuming Airy isostasy indicate the observed crustal root is sufficient to support the Alaska Range. North of the range, however, the crust is systematically thinner than predicted by simple Airy isostasy. A crustal density contrast of 4.6% across the Hines Creek Fault 2700 kgm-3 to the north and 2830 kgm-3 to the south, explains the observed difference between the crustal thicknesses predicted by simple Airy isostasy and the crustal thicknesses determined by receiver function analysis. Our results indicate that variations in both crustal thickness and density are required to explain the seismic and gravity data. Crustal thicknesses across the central Alaska Range suggest that these mountains are supported by a crustal root developed due to contractional thickening. Crustal thickness data reveal differences in terrane thickness: a thin Yukon-Tanana terrane north of the Hines Creek fault and thicker Kahiltna/Wrangellia terranes to the south. Finally, the pattern of thin crust to the north and thicker crust to the south appears to be modified by late Cenozoic structures such as the Denali fault, with contractional thickening in the Alaska Range, including areas north of the Hines Creek fault in the northern foothills fold and thrust belt. BEAAR crustal thickness data suggest that major faults extend to the base of the crust.
    • Earthquake source mechanisms and three-dimensional wavefield simulations in Alaska

      Silwal, Vipul; Tape, Carl; Christensen, Douglas; West, Michael; Ruppert, Natalia; Freymueller, Jeffrey (2018-08)
      This thesis presents: (1) a set of earthquake source mechanism catalogs for Alaska and (2) a threedimensional seismic velocity model of Alaska. The improved earthquake sources are used within the velocity model for generating synthetic seismograms, which are then compared with recorded seismograms to assess the quality of the velocity model. An earthquake source mechanism can be modeled as a moment tensor, which is a 3 × 3 symmetric matrix. We estimate the moment tensor for earthquakes by comparing observed waveforms (body waves and surface waves) with synthetic waveforms computed in a layered model. The improved moment tensor solutions are obtained by utilizing both the body waves and surface waves at as many broadband stations as possible. Further improvement in the inversion technique is obtained by (1) implementation of L1 norm in waveform misfit function and (2) inclusion of first-motion polarity misfit in the misfit function. We also demonstrate a probabilistic approach for quantifying the uncertainty in a moment tensor solution. Moment tensors can be used for understanding the tectonics of a region. In the Cook Inlet and Susitna region, west of Anchorage, we determined moment tensor solutions for small-tointermediate magnitude (M ≥ 2.5) crustal earthquakes. Analyzing these small earthquakes required us to modify the misfit function to include first-motion polarity measurements, in addition to waveform differences. The study was complemented with the probabilistic hypocenter estimation of large historical earthquakes (Mw ≥ 5.8) to assess their likelihood of origin as crustal, intraslab, or subduction interface. The predominance of thrust faulting mechanisms for crustal earthquakes indicate a compressive regime within the crust of south-central Alaska. Wavefield simulations are performed in three regions of Alaska: the southern Alaska region of subduction, the eastern Alaska region with the accreting Yakutat microplate, and the interior Alaska region containing predominantly strike-slip faulting, including the Minto Flats fault zone. Our three-dimensional seismic velocity model of Alaska is an interpolated body-wave arrival time model from a previous study, embedded with major sedimentary basins (Cook Inlet, Susitna, Nenana), and with a minimum shear wave velocity threshold of 1000 m/s. Our comparisons between data and synthetics quantify the misfit that arises from different parts of each model. Furtherwork is needed to comprehensively document the regions within each model that give rise to the observed misfit. This would be a step toward performing an iterative adjoint tomographic inversion in Alaska.
    • History of the Chukchi borderland and the Amerasia basin, Arctic Ocean

      Ilhan, Ibrahim; Coakley, Bernard J.; Johnson, Christopher A.; Houseknecht, David W.; Whalen, Michael T. (2018-08)
      Structural and stratigraphic interpretation of 2D multi-channel seismic (MCS) reflection profiles through recognition of the sub-surface reflection patterns and integration of the seismic interpretation with the other geophysical and geological data reveal the history of the Chukchi Borderland. This investigation provides new constraints for the tectonic development of the Amerasia Basin. North-striking normal faults of the Chukchi Borderland dissect the continental basement into the Chukchi Plateau, Northwind Basin and Northwind Ridge from west to east. A well-developed angular unconformity (Au) separates the stratigraphic section into sub and super-Au seismic units. Sub-Au units include: (1) seaward dipping reflections (SDRs) observed in the juncture between the North Chukchi-Toll Basins and Chukchi Plateau; (2) growth and folded strata in the Northwind Basin; (3) thrust faults in the Northwind Basin and over the Northwind Ridge; and (4) a clinoform sequence that downlaps onto the extended continental crust of the Canada Basin, supported by presence of SDRs and diapiric reflections within the crust. Au is inferred to correlate to the Hauterivian (LCu) and the Middle Jurassic (Ju) unconformities of the Alaska North Slope. The SDRs indicate that the southwestern margin of the Chukchi Borderland may be a rifted continental margin. Loosely constrained age control of a super-Au unit (inferred condensed section, perhaps correlative to Hauterivian pebble shale or the Jurassic upper Kingak shale units of Alaska North Slope) implies that the rifted margin subsided no later than the earliest Cretaceous, providing a plausible time constraint for Middle Jurassic-earliest Cretaceous rifting in the North Chukchi Basin. The growth strata and north-striking normal faults of the Northwind Basin are continuous with the extensional structures of the Mississippian Hanna Trough, providing a geologic linkage between the two. The folding and thrust faults reveal a phase of contraction confined to sub-Au units of the south and eastern Northwind Basin and Northwind Ridge. The clinoform sequence of the Northwind Ridge-Canada Basin is inferred to correlate with the Upper Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous Kingak shale unit of Alaska North Slope, implying that the extension of the crust beneath the western Canada Basin occurred no later than the Middle Jurassic. Super-Au strata (~16 km) onlap the condensed section, SDRs, growth and passive margin strata from west to east, tapering down to a few kilometers north and eastward across the seismic grid. These are part of the Aptian through Cenozoic Brookian megasequence, a series of clinothems, deposited across the foreland of the Chukotka and Brooks Range orogens. These strata were deposited by northward-migrating depositional systems that progressively filled the North Chukchi Basin and buried the southern flank of the Chukchi Borderland, and deposited along the Northwind margin of the Canada Basin. Another unit of growth strata is observed in the Northwind Basin, indicating another phase of extension of the Boderland. The Upper Cretaceous section of the Brookian megasequence is displaced by normal faults over the Chukchi Plateau and inferred age-equivalent strata over the Northwind Ridge. These constrain the second phase of extension of the interior Borderland to the Late Cretaceous to Paleocene. The recognition of the sub-Au units and continuity of the super-Au units across the area, north-striking normal faults, and the absence of east-directed thrust faults between the Northwind Ridge and Canada Basin invalidate one model proposed for tectonic development of the Amerasia Basin. Models that require significant relative motion between the Chukchi Shelf and Borderland since the Middle Jurassic are precluded by these observations.
    • The Topographically Asymmetrical Alaska Range: Multiple Tectonic Drivers Through Space And Time

      Benowitz, Jeffrey; Layer, Paul (2011)
      The topographically segmented, ~700 km long Alaska Range evolved over the last ~50 Ma in response to both far-field driving mechanisms and near-field boundary conditions. The eastern Alaska Range follows the curve of the Denali Fault strike-slip system, forming a large arc of high topography across southern Alaska. The majority of the topography in the eastern Alaska Range lies north of the Fault. A region of low topography separates the eastern Alaska Range from the central Alaska Range, where most of the high topography lies south of the Denali Fault. To the west, there is a restraining bend in the Fault. Southwest of the bend, the north-south trending western Alaska Range takes an abrupt 90 degree turn away from the Denali Fault. I applied 40Ar/39Ar thermochronology to over forty granitic samples to constrain the thermal history of the western and eastern Alaska Range. I combine the 40Ar/39Ar analyses with available apatite fission track and apatite (U-Th)/He dating. I then inferred the Alaska Range's exhumation history from the region's rates and patterns of rock cooling. Periods of mountain building within the Alaska Range are related to Paleocene-Eocene ridge subduction and an associated slab window (~50 Ma to ~35 Ma), Neogene flat-slab subduction of the Yakutat microplate (~24 Ma to present), Yakutat microplate latitudinal variation in thickness (~6 Ma to present), block rotation/migration, and fault reorganization along the Denali Fault. However, it is clear from basin, petrological and thermochronological constraints that not all of the far-field driving mechanisms affected every segment of the Alaska Range to the same degree or at the same time. Alaska Range tectonic reconstruction is also complicated by near-field structural controls on both the timing and extent of deformation. Fault geometry affects both the amount of exhumation (e.g., ~14 km in the Susitna Glacier region of the eastern Alaska Range) and location of topographic development (e.g., north or south of the Denali Fault). The topographic signature we see today is also in part the result of a pre-existing landscape modified by Plio-Quaternary (~3 Ma to present) surface processes.