Deciphering the Transitional Tectonics of the Southern Alaska Margin Through Gulf Sedimentology and Geophysics: IODP Expedition 341

Monday, 15 December 2014
Robert Reece, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, United States, Sean P S Gulick, University of Texas at Austin, Institute for Geophysics, Austin, TX, United States and John M Jaeger, University of Florida, Ft Walton Beach, FL, United States
Southern Alaska is a complex amalgam of tectonic environments, centered on the subduction/collision of the Yakutat Block with North America. Along the Aleutians in the west, the Pacific Plate subducts normally beneath North America, with a gradually shallowing subduction angle towards the Yakutat Terrane to the east. The western region of the Yakutat Block undergoes nearly flat-slab subduction beneath North America, whereas it transitions to collision in the northeast, which is the primary driver for the growth of the Chugach-St. Elias orogen. Farther to the east, the collisional system transitions to a transform boundary with the Fairweather-Queen Charlotte fault system.

The collisional system contributes to farfield tectonic effects in many regions, including northern Alaska and the Pacific Plate, but also combines with glaciation to drive sedimentation in the Gulf of Alaska. Glaciation has periodically increased in the St. Elias Range since the Miocene, but began dominating erosion and spurred enhanced exhumation since the intensification of Northern Hemisphere glaciation, at ~2.5 Ma. Results from IODP Expedition 341 show the first appearance of ice-rafted debris and a doubling of Gulf sedimentation at site U1417 at this age, and a major increase in sedimentation at ~1 Ma at sites U1417 and U1418. Glacigenic sediment flux into the Gulf of Alaska represents the majority of accumulation in the deepwater Surveyor Fan, and was the impetus for formation of the Surveyor Channel system.

Climate events correlate to three major differentiable sequences across the Surveyor Fan that have been previously mapped using seismic reflection profiles. The change in morphology observed throughout the sequences allows us to characterize the influence that a glaciated orogen can have in shaping margin processes and the sediment pathways from source to sink. IODP Expedition 341 results allow us to now apply this method at higher resolution time scales (i.e., 100 kyr). We will explore changes in fan geomorphology observed in seismic reflection data to decipher changes in southern Alaska tectonics and climate, and to show the effect of those changes on deepwater sedimentary systems.