Geological studies in Alaska by the U.S. Geological Survey, 1999

Professional Paper 1633

Edited by:
Larry P. Gough and Frederic H. Wilson



The collection of nine papers that follow continue the series of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) investigative reports in Alaska under the broad umbrella of the geologic sciences. The series presents new and sometimes preliminary findings that are of interest to earth scientists in academia, government, and industry; to land and resource managers; and to the general public. Reports presented in Geologic Studies in Alaska cover a broad spectrum of topics from various parts of the State (fig. 1), serving to emphasize the diversity of USGS efforts to meet the Nation's needs for earth-science information in Alaska.

The papers in this volume are organized under the topics: Hazards, Geologic Framework, Environment and Climate, and Resources. This organization is intended to reflect the scope and objectives of USGS geologic programs currently active in Alaska. The two Hazards studies discuss volcano-related topics in the seismically active southcentral Alaska region. The first paper revisits the eruptive events of Redoubt Volcano that occurred more than a decade ago and the subsequent development of the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO). This treatise documents the historic impact of this eruption and briefly summarizes the state of our knowledge of the other Cook Inlet, Alaska Peninsula, and Aleutian Island volcanoes. Finally, it discusses the recent role that AVO has had in seismic station installation and hazard assessment at volcanically active sites throughout the world. The second paper discusses the eruptive history of Snowy Mountain in the upper Alaska Peninsula. Because subsets of its 25-30 lava flows erupted as packages in short episodes, calculation of the volcano's lifetime average volumetric eruption rate is problematic. A portion of the cone was hydrothermally weakened and collapsed in the late Holocene producing a 22-km2 debris avalanche.

Geologic Framework studies provide background information that is the scientific basis for present and future earth science investigations. The first paper compares and contrasts the Insular-Intermontane suture zone (IISZ) of southeast Alaska with the Adria-Europe suture zone (AESZ) of Switzerland and Hungary. The study develops the hypothesis that the zones have distinct differences as well as similarities and neither is a simple lithotectonic terrane boundary. The second paper discusses the relation among volcanic, glacial, and tectonic activity in the Cold Bay and False Pass 1 :250,000-scale quadrangles on the Alaska Peninsula. During Pleistocene time, continental-shelf glaciations and two massive volcanic centers were the dominant controls over landscape development. The third paper gives detailed geologic information for Paleozoic rocks within the Taylor Mountains D-1 quadrangle portion of the Holitna Lowland of southwestern Alaska. Because of the excellent preservation of megafossils, these Silurian and Ordovician strata lend themselves to detailed statigraphic investigations. Further, low thermal alteration indices of this area have made them a potential target of petroleum exploration. The final report in this section discusses the development of a new spectral enhancement approach for interpreting Multispectral Scanner (MSS) and Thematic Mapper (TM) satellite images. This technique enhances the use of remote sensing data in identifying geologic units in areas that have been poorly investigated. This study used this technique to better define the distribution of a JMtu (mafic, ultramafic, and sedimentary) unit and a PzZrqs (pelitic and quartzitic schist) unit.

Environment and climate studies are the emphasis of two papers. One presents the first radiocarbon-dated postglacial vegetation history of the Kenai Mountains of southcentral Alaska. This reconstruction is the result of the analysis of pollen assemblages and peat from sediments collected in Tern Lake and presents a minimum age for deglaciation of these interior valleys at 9,31 0±200 yr B .P. Current vegetation, however, developed within the past ca. 2,500 years. A second study discusses the cycling of arsenic and cadmium in sub-arctic boreal forest ecosystems typical of interior Alaska and defines the importance of various natural (geogenic) sources. The transport and uptake into vegetation of these elements from soils developed from loess as well as soils developed from the major rock units is presented. The bioaccumulation of cadmium in willow (Salix sp.) and its potential consequence to the health of browsing animals is discussed.

Papers related to resource issues comprise the topic of the final report. This paper presents a brief statistical summary of the geochemistry of rock samples collected in the east-central portion of the Eagle 1 :250,000-scale quadrangle. This study helps define the rock unit source of both resource- and environmental-based chemical elements of interest in the Fortymile mining district.

Two bibliographies at the end of the volume list reports covering Alaska earth science topics in USGS publications during 1999 and reports about Alaska by USGS authors in non-USGS publications during the same period.

Geospatial Extents

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Geological studies in Alaska by the U.S. Geological Survey, 1999
Series title:
Professional Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Denver, CO
v, 142 p.
Number of Pages:
United States
Online Only (Y/N):
Additional Online Files(Y/N):