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Cretaceous to Oligocene magmatic and tectonic evolution of the western Alaska Range: Insights from U-Pb and 40Ar/39Ar geochronology

December 10, 2020

New U-Pb and 40Ar/39Ar ages integrated with geologic mapping and observations across the western Alaska Range constrain the distribution and tectonic setting of Cretaceous to Oligocene magmatism along an evolving accretionary plate margin in south-central Alaska. These rocks were emplaced across basement domains that include Neoproterozoic to Jurassic carbonate and siliciclastic strata of the Farewell terrane, Triassic and Jurassic plutonic and volcanic rocks of the Peninsular terrane, and Jurassic and Cretaceous siliciclastic strata of the Kahiltna assemblage. Plutonic rocks of different ages also host economic mineralization including intrusion-related Au, porphyry Cu-Mo-Au, polymetallic veins and skarns, and peralkaline intrusion-related rare-earth elements. The oldest intrusive suites were emplaced ca. 104–80 Ma into the Peninsular terrane only prior to final accretion. Deformation of the northern Kahiltna succession and underlying Farewell terrane occurred at ca. 97 Ma, and more widespread deformation ca. 80 Ma involved south-vergent folding and thrusting of the Kahiltna assemblage that records collisional accretion of the Peninsular-Wrangellia terrane and juxtaposition of sediment wedges formed on the inboard and outboard terranes. More widespread magmatism ca. 75–55 Ma occurred in two general pulses, each having distinct styles of localized deformation. Circa 75–65 Ma plutons were emplaced in a transpressional setting and stitch the accreted Peninsular and Wrangellia terranes to the Farewell terrane. Circa 65–55 Ma magmatism occurred across the entire range and extends for more than 200 km inboard from the inferred position of the continental margin. The Paleocene plutonic suite generally reflects shallower emplacement depths relative to older suites and is associated with more abundant andesitic to rhyolitic volcanic rocks. Deformation ca. 58–56 Ma was concentrated along two high-strain zones, the most prominent of which is 1 km wide, strikes east-northeast, and accommodated dextral oblique motion. Emplacement of widespread intermediate to mafic dikes ca. 59–51 Ma occurred before a notable magmatic lull from ca. 51–44 Ma reflecting a late Paleocene to early Eocene slab window. Magmatism resumed ca. 44 Ma, recording the transition from slab window to renewed subduction that formed the Aleutian-Meshik arc to the southwest. In the western Alaska Range, Eocene magmatism included emplacement of the elongate north-south Merrill Pass pluton and large volumes of ca. 44–37 Ma andesitic flows, tuffs, and lahar deposits. Finally, a latest Eocene to Oligocene magmatic pulse involved emplacement of a compositionally variable but spatially concentrated suite of magmas ranging from gabbro to peralkaline granite ca. 35–26 Ma, followed by waning magmatism that coincided with initiation of Yakutat shallow-slab subduction. Cretaceous to Oligocene magmatism throughout the western Alaska Range collectively records terrane accretion, translation, and integration together with evolving subduction dynamics that have shaped the southern Alaska margin since the middle Mesozoic.

Publication Year 2020
Title Cretaceous to Oligocene magmatic and tectonic evolution of the western Alaska Range: Insights from U-Pb and 40Ar/39Ar geochronology
DOI 10.1130/GES02303.1
Authors James V. Jones, Erin Todd, Stephen E. Box, Peter J. Haeussler, Christopher Holm-Denoma, Susan M. Karl, Garth E. Graham, Dwight C. Bradley, Andrew R.C. Kylander-Clark, Richard M. Friedman, Paul W. Layer
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geosphere
Index ID 70216894
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Geology Minerals; Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center