Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Mid‐Cretaceous extensional tectonics of the Yukon‐Tanana Terrane, Trans‐Alaska Crustal Transect (TACT), east‐central Alaska

June 10, 1993

Mid‐Cretaceous crustal extension played a fundamental role in the structural evolution of the Yukon‐Tanana terrane (YTT) in the northern Cordilleran interior. In the central portion of the YTT northwest of Delta Junction, Alaska, a mylonitic shear zone juxtaposes greenschist facies rocks in the upper plate against middle to upper amphibolite facies metamorphic rocks in the lower plate, a juxtaposition suggesting elimination of as much as 10 km of crustal section. The mylonites form a partial sheath enveloping a domal footwall structure and kinematic analysis of the mylonite zone yields a uniform transport direction of hanging wall to ESE. These relations suggest analogies to the metamorphic core complexes of the southern Cordillera. However, the YTT structures are entirely ductile, suggesting either a relatively deep erosional level or relatively high geothermal gradients during extension. In the study area remnants of an older preextensional thrusting event are preserved at the highest structural levels at the base of the Seventymile terrane and the leading edge of YTT in the Wickersham terrane. However, most areas display a regional, subhorizontal fabric that is superimposed on older fabrics, and in the study area this latest fabric is subparallel to the mylonitic sheath of the apparent extensional structure. Thus the conventional viewpoint that this latest fabric is related to thrusting needs to be reevaluated and this fabric may be entirely extensional in origin. Further evidence for extension is provided by clear similarities between YTT and characteristic features of other extensional terranes. Thus we suggest that the YTT is a deeply eroded view of highly extended continental crust. The tectonic mechanism for the extensional event and the magnitude of the extension is uncertain because of complications in regional timing relationships and in alternative interpretations of the reconstruction of the crustal section. Three end‐member models based on analogies with Neogene extensional systems are presented as working models to accommodate the alternative interpretations: (1) a Jurassic collision and Cretaceous extension model based on comparisons with the Neogene history of the Mediterranean region; (2) an Early to mid‐Cretaceous syncollisional model analogous to the Carpathian Mountains of eastern Europe; and (3) a syncollisional plateau uplift model with extension driven by gravity spreading.

Publication Year 1993
Title Mid‐Cretaceous extensional tectonics of the Yukon‐Tanana Terrane, Trans‐Alaska Crustal Transect (TACT), east‐central Alaska
DOI 10.1029/92TC00860
Authors Terry L. Pavlis, V. B. Sisson, Helen L. Foster, Warren J. Nokleberg, George Plafker
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Tectonics
Index ID 70210581
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center