skip to main content


Title: Variations in Lithospheric Thickness Across the Denali Fault and in Northern Alaska
Abstract

While variations in crustal structure beneath the Denali fault in Alaska are well‐documented, the existence of fault‐correlated structures throughout the entire thickness of the continental lithosphere is not. A new model of shear‐wave velocity structure obtained through joint inversion of surface wave and converted body wave data shows a northward increase in lithospheric thickness and velocity occurring across the Denali fault system. In northern Alaska, a dramatic increase in lithospheric thickness at the southern margin of the Arctic‐Alaska terrane lies in the vicinity of the Kobuk fault system. These correlations support the view that transpressive deformation tends to localize at the margins of thicker, higher‐strength lithosphere.

 
more » « less
NSF-PAR ID:
10393789
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Geophysical Research Letters
Volume:
49
Issue:
24
ISSN:
0094-8276
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    The crustal structure in south‐central Alaska has been influenced by terrane accretion, flat slab subduction, and a modern strike‐slip fault system. Within the active subduction system, the presence of the Denali Volcanic Gap (DVG), a ∼400 km region separating the active volcanism of the Aleutian Arc to the west and the Wrangell volcanoes to the east, remains enigmatic. To better understand the regional tectonics and the nature of the volcanic gap, we deployed a month‐long north‐south linear geophone array of 306 stations with an interstation distance of 1 km across the Alaska Range. By calculating multi‐component noise cross‐correlation and jointly inverting Rayleigh wave phase velocity and ellipticity across the array, we construct a 2‐D shear wave velocity model along the transect down to ∼16 km depth. In the shallow crust, we observe low‐velocity structures associated with sedimentary basins and image the Denali fault as a narrow localized low‐velocity anomaly extending to at least 12 km depth. About 12 km, below the fold and thrust fault system in the northern flank of the Alaska Range, we observe a prominent low‐velocity zone with more than 15% velocity reduction. Our velocity model is consistent with known geological features and reveals a previously unknown low‐velocity zone that we interpret as a magmatic feature. Based on this feature's spatial relationship to the Buzzard Creek and Jumbo Dome volcanoes and the location above the subducting Pacific Plate, we interpret the low‐velocity zone as a previously unknown subduction‐related crustal magma reservoir located beneath the DVG.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Lithospheric layering contains critical information about continental formation and evolution. However, discrepancies on the depth distributions of lithospheric layers have significantly limited our understanding of possible tectonic connections among the layers. Here, we construct a high‐resolution shear velocity model of eastern North America using full‐wave ambient noise simulation and inversion by integrating onshore and offshore seismic datasets. Our new model reveals large lateral variations of lithosphere thickness approximately across the major tectonic boundaries, strong low‐velocity anomalies underlying the thinner lithosphere, and multiple low‐velocity layers within the continental lithosphere. We suggest that the present mantle lithosphere beneath eastern North America was formed and modified through multiple stages of tectonic processes, among which metasomatism may have significantly contributed to the observed intralithospheric low‐velocity layers. The sharp thickness variation of lithosphere promoted edge‐driven mantle convection, which has been consequently modifying the overlying mantle lithosphere and further sharpening the gradient of lithosphere thickness

     
    more » « less
  3. Oblique convergence along strike-slip faults can lead to both distributed and localized deformation. How focused transpressive deformation is both localized and maintained along sub-vertical wrench structures to create high topography and deep exhumation warrants further investigation. The high peak region of the Hayes Range, central Alaska, USA, is bound by two lithospheric scale vertical faults: the Denali fault to the south and Hines Creek fault to the north. The high topography area has peaks over 4000 m and locally has experienced more than 14 km of Neogene exhumation, yet the mountain range is located on the convex side of the Denali fault Mount Hayes restraining bend, where slip partitioning alone cannot account for this zone of extreme exhumation. Through the application of U-Pb zircon, 40Ar/39Ar (hornblende, muscovite, biotite, and K-feldspar), apatite fission-track, and (U-Th)/He geo-thermochronology, we test whether these two parallel, reactivated suture zone structures are working in tandem to vertically extrude the Between the Hines Creek and Denali faults block on the convex side of the Mount Hayes restraining bend. We document that since at least 45 Ma, the Denali fault has been bent and localized in a narrow fault zone (<160 m) with a significant dip-slip component, the Mount Hayes restraining bend has been fixed to the north side of the Denali fault, and that the Between the Hines Creek and Denali faults block has been undergoing vertical extrusion as a relatively coherent block along the displacement “free faces” of two lithospheric scale suture zone faults. A bent Denali fault by ca. 45 Ma supports the long-standing Alaska orocline hypothesis that has Alaska bent by ca. 44 Ma. Southern Alaska is currently converging at ~4 mm/yr to the north against the Denali fault and driving vertical extrusion of the Between the Hines Creek and Denali faults block and deformation north of the Hines Creek fault. We apply insights ascertained from the Between the Hines Creek and Denali faults block to another region in southern Alaska, the Fairweather Range, where extreme topography and persistent exhumation is also located between two sub-parallel faults, and propose that this region has likely undergone vertical extrusion along the free faces of those faults. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Observed variations in across‐axis topographic relief and faulting style at spreading centers have been challenging to explain. Axial highs are seen at fast‐spreading centers, while valleys occur for slow‐spreading centers. Fault offsets range from tens of meters at fast‐spreading ridges to tens of kilometers at some slow‐spreading ridges. Models that fit the axial relief fail to produce observed fault patterns, while models that fit the fault patterns fail to produce observed variations in axial relief. A recent mechanical analysis (Liu & Buck, 2018,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.epsl.2018.03.045) suggests that including the effect of many discrete diking events can result in a gradual change in axial relief with crustal thicknesses. To compare this mechanical model directly with observations requires us to couple it with a two‐dimensional thermal model. This allows us to estimate the axial lithospheric thickness consistently as a function of the spreading rate and crustal thickness. For thinner axial lithosphere the model predicts an axial high with relief supported by low‐density material beneath the axial lithosphere. For axial lithospheric thickness between approximately one half and approximately three fourths of the crustal thickness, the axial depth decreases with magma supply increase. For thicker axial lithosphere the axial valley relief is controlled by axial brittle lithospheric thickness and near‐axis lithospheric geometry. We compared model predictions to data by compiling observations on axial relief and faulting mode for all spreading centers where seismic crustal thickness has been measured. Good fit to the data is obtained for model parameters giving dike widths in the axial lithosphere close to a meter.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    This study probes the lithosphere‐asthenosphere system beneath 155 Ma Pacific seafloor using teleseismic S‐to‐p receiver functions at the Pacific Lithosphere Anisotropy and Thickness Experiment project ocean‐bottom‐seismometers. Within the lithosphere, a significant velocity decrease at 33–50 km depth is observed. This mid‐lithospheric discontinuity is consistent with the velocity contrast between the background mantle and thin, trapped layers of crystallized partial melt, in the form of either dolomite or garnet granulite. These melts possibly originated from deeper asthenospheric melting beneath the flanks of spreading centers, and were transported within the cooling lithosphere. A positive velocity increase of 3%–6% is observed at 130–155 km depth and is consistent with the base of a layer with partial melt in the asthenosphere. A shear velocity decrease associated with the lithosphere‐asthenosphere boundary at 95–115 km depth is permitted by the data, but is not required.

     
    more » « less