Abstract

Regional crustal shortening in northern Yukon and northeastern Alaska occurred episodically from the latest Cretaceous to the late Miocene, with a major culmination occurring in the Paleocene to middle Eocene, and a secondary culmination in the late Miocene. Structural trends are predominantly north to northeastward in northern Yukon and adjacent east-central Alaska, and generally east-west along the Brooks Range. The early Tertiary trend is strongly arcuate in the Beaufort fold belt and adjacent onshore areas. The continuity of structures southward from the Beaufort Sea region through northern Yukon and east-central Alaska supports the interpretation that the structures north of 65 degrees N form a single orogenic entity. The Beaufort Sea region is 1000 km from the nearest plate margin. Northward shortening across Arctic Alaska and the northern Canadian cordillera reflects the convergent component of Kula (later, Pacific)-North America interactions throughout the Tertiary. North- to northeast-trending structures of latest Cretaceous to early Tertiary age in northern Yukon and east-central Alaska accommodate shortening of 180-240 km, and reflect Eurasia-North America convergence. The strongly arcuate offshore Beaufort fold belt and similar structures in adjacent northernmost Yukon and northeast Alaska were formed by the complex interplay of three factors: shortening of northern Yukon between Arctic Alaska and the craton to produce a north-trending orogenic welt; northward displacements propagated from the Kula plate margin; and local boundary conditions imposed by lithology and crustal structure, which aided lateral escape of the deforming supracrustal succession northward into the Beaufort Sea. In central Alaska, any kinematic linkage between the Kaltag fault in the west and the Tintina fault of the northern cordillera is more complex than was previously assumed. A new regional tectonic reconstruction of northern Yukon-Alaska quantifies the tectonic shortening in central Alaska south of the Kaltag and Tintina faults in an area where tectonic shortening is difficult to quantify due to complex geology. Complex deformation accommodated by folding, thrust and strike-slip faulting, and/or tectonic rotations accounts for an estimated 460 km of crustal shortening, approximately equivalent in magnitude to the total Tintina fault displacement of at least 450 km. The foreland of the Brooks Range, the Beaufort fold belt, and the northern cordillera contain proven petroleum basins. This regional synthesis validates a model of orogenic shortening for the Beaufort fold belt and provides a unifying tectonic setting for oil and gas plays throughout the region. The latest Cretaceous-Tertiary structural evolution of the Brooks Range, Beaufort, and northern Yukon fold belts is a case study of the temporally and kinematically complex far-field deformation arising from the convergence of four major tectonic plates.

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