Progressive deformation of the Chugach accretionary complex, Alaska, during a paleogene ridge-trench encounter

Journal of Structural Geology



The Mesozoic accretionary wedge of south-central Alaska is cut by an array of faults including dextral and sinistral strike-slip faults, synthetic and antithetic thrust faults, and synthetic and antithetic normal faults. The three fault sets are characterized by quartz ± calcite ± chlorite ± prehnite slickensides, and are all relatively late, i.e. all truncate ductile fabrics of the host rocks. Cross-cutting relationships suggest that the thrust fault sets predate the late normal and strike-slip fault sets. Together, the normal and strike-slip fault system exhibits orthorhombic symmetry. Thrust faulting shortened the wedge subhorizontally perpendicular to strike, and then normal and strike-slip faulting extended the wedge oblique to orogenic strike. Strongly curved slickenlines on some faults of each set reveal that displacement directions changed over time. On dip-slip faults (thrust and normal), slickenlines tend to become steeper with younger increments of slip, whereas on strike-slip faults, slickenlines become shallower with younger strain increments. These patterns may result from progressive exhumation of the accretionary wedge while the faults were active, with the curvature of the slickenlines tracking the change from a non-Andersonian stress field at depth to a more Andersonian system (σ1 or σ2 nearly vertical) at shallower crustal levels.

We interpret this complex fault array as a progressive deformation that is one response to Paleocene-Eocene subduction of the Kula-Farallon spreading center beneath the accretionary complex because: (1) on the Kenai Peninsula, ENE-striking dextral faults of this array exhibit mutually cross-cutting relationships with Paleocene-Eocene dikes related to ridge subduction; and (2) mineralized strike-slip and normal faults of the orthorhombic system have yielded 40Ar/39Ar ages identical to near-trench intrusives related to ridge subduction. Both features are diachronous along-strike, having formed at circa 65 Ma in the west and 50 Ma in the east. Exhumation of deeper levels of the southern Alaska accretionary wedge and formation of this late fault array is interpreted as a critical taper adjustment to subduction of progressively younger oceanic lithosphere yielding a shallower basal de´collement dip as the Kula-Farallon ridge approached the accretionary prism. The late structures also record different kinematic regimes associated with subduction of different oceanic plates, before and after ridge subduction. Prior to triple junction passage, subduction of the Farallon plate occurred at nearly right angles to the trench axis, whereas after triple junction migration, subduction of the Kula plate involved a significant component of dextral transpression and northward translation of the Chugach terrane. The changes in kinematics are apparent in the sequence of late structures from: (1) thrusting; (2) near-trench plutonism associated with normal + strike-slip faulting; (3) very late gouge-filled dextral faults.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Progressive deformation of the Chugach accretionary complex, Alaska, during a paleogene ridge-trench encounter
Series title Journal of Structural Geology
DOI 10.1016/S0191-8141(96)00084-3
Volume 19
Issue 2
Year Published 1997
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center
Description 19 p.
First page 139
Last page 157
Country United States
State Alaska