Thermal evolution of sedimentary basins in Alaska

Bulletin 2142




The complex tectonic collage of Alaska is reflected in the conjunction of rocks of widely varying thermal maturity. Indicators of the level of thermal maturity of rocks exposed at the surface, such as vitrinite reflectance and conodont color alteration index, can help constrain the tectonic evolution of such complex regions and, when combined with petrographic, modern heat flow, thermogeochronologic, and isotopic data, allow for the detailed evaluation of a region?s burial and uplift history. We have collected and assembled nearly 10,000 vitrinite-reflectance and conodont-color-alteration index values from the literature, previous U.S. Geological Survey investigations, and our own studies in Alaska. This database allows for the first synthesis of thermal maturity on a broadly regional scale. Post-accretionary sedimentary basins in Alaska show wide variability in terms of thermal maturity. The Tertiary interior basins, as well as some of the forearc and backarc basins associated with the Aleutian Arc, are presently at their greatest depth of burial, with immature rocks exposed at the surface. Other basins, such as some backarc basins on the Alaska Peninsula, show higher thermal maturities, indicating modest uplift, perhaps in conjunction with higher geothermal gradients related to the arc itself. Cretaceous ?flysch? basins, such as the Yukon-Koyukuk basin, are at much higher thermal maturity, reflecting great amounts of uplift perhaps associated with compressional regimes generated through terrane accretion. Many sedimentary basins in Alaska, such as the Yukon-Koyukuk and Colville basins, show higher thermal maturity at basin margins, perhaps reflecting greater uplift of the margins in response to isostatic unloading, owing to erosion of the hinterland adjacent to the basin or to compressional stresses adjacent to basin margins.

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Thermal evolution of sedimentary basins in Alaska
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U.S. Geological Survey,
138 p.