Linking Quaternary Climate Changes to Mountain Building in Southeastern Alaska
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
The Chugach-St. Elias Mountains in southeastern Alaska exhibit extreme topography as a result of the subduction and collision of the Yakutat microplate with the North American plate. Extensive glaciation in the area, coupled with the active tectonics, makes the Chugach-St. Elias Mountains the ideal site to investigate the resulting spatial and temporal variations in exhumation. The St. Elias Mountains have experienced three major climate changes including the start of regional glaciation at ~5.5 Ma, the onset of glaciation in the Northern Hemisphere during the Plio-Pleistocene Transition to colder temperatures at 2.5 Ma, and a change in global climate cyclicity during the mid-Pleistocene Transition from 1.2-0.7 Ma. Our goal is to determine whether these climate changes result in shifts in the rates and patterns of regional exhumation due to the intensification of glacial erosion. We investigate the late Cenozoic sediments from five boreholes that were drilled by IODP Expedition 341 along a transect crossing the Yakutat shelf (offshore Bering glacier) and into the deep-sea Surveyor Fan in the Gulf of Alaska. Magnetostratigraphy and biostratigraphy on these sediments establish an up to 10 Ma depositional history in the boreholes. To study rock exhumation of the sediment source over time, 17 detrital samples from various depths in the cores were dated using zircon fission track thermochronology. Single grain cooling ages range from 302.8 Ma to 0.2 Ma, and contain composite age populations with peaks coinciding with major regional tectonic events providing information on sediment provenance and exhumation. All single grains were also double dated using U-Pb dating to identify and eliminate volcanic grains from the sample. Common U-Pb age populations are 53, 62, 70, and 98 Ma with minor populations of 117, 154, and 170 Ma. These ages are being used to better constrain sediment provenance and reconstruct past glacial catchments.