Absolute age constraints on rapid, axial progradation of a high-relief clinoform depositional system in the Colville foreland basin, Arctic Alaska

Monday, 15 December 2014
David W Houseknecht, USGS Headquarters, Reston, VA, United States, Richard O Lease, USGS Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, AK, United States and Andrew R Kylander-Clark, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, United States
Lower Cretaceous strata of the Alaska North Slope contain the world’s most voluminous (1.2 million km3), highest relief (>1 km thick), and longest (600 km west-east) foreland clinoform depositional sequence. Although the regional stratigraphic framework of the Torok-Nanushuk clinoform sequence is well known, absolute age constraints are lacking. Existing, relatively imprecise “Aptian-Albian” biostratigraphy has hindered a quantitative understanding of clinoform depositional processes. We establish chronostratigraphy for the Torok-Nanushuk clinoform sequence with detrital zircon U/Pb geochronology from 9 localities from exploration well cores and outcrop samples (n=1666 grains). Maximum depositional ages defined by young detrital zircon U/Pb age populations, likely derived from coeval volcanism in Russian Chukotka, become progressively younger in the direction of eastward progradation. These data reveal a major progradational surge between 116 and 104 Ma when the shelf margin prograded more than 525 km. The rapid progradation (~45 km/m.y.) and sediment flux (~100,000 km3/m.y.) of this high-relief clinoform deposystem was sustained for 12 m.y. and suggests a supply-dominated system. This deposystem filled relict Colville basin accommodation that had developed as a flexural response to earlier Brooks Range tectonic loading. Clinoform dip directions and detrital zircon provenance indicate that the sediment was derived primarily from Russian Chukotka during longitudinal, eastward sediment dispersal. Progradation slowed after 104 Ma when seismic stratigraphy shows a shift from progradational to aggradational shelf-margin trajectories. The shelf margin prograded only another 60 km eastward before a sequence-bounding retrogradation occurred at 96 Ma. Our chronostratigraphy quantifies that rates of progradation and sediment flux were three times greater than previously believed during the major phase of basin filling. These rates are among the highest in the world for a clinoform deposystem in a foreland basin. This system is unique in that nowhere else are such high rates sustained for this long a duration (12 m.y.) or this high of relief (>1 km).