Abstract

Thirty-seven tephra beds, primarily from coal partings in the Sterling and Beluga formations, were successfully dated by the 40Ar/39Ar method providing a new and revised understanding of the chronostratigraphy of late Tertiary strata within Cook Inlet Basin. Meticulous sample preparation, multiple analyses, and statistical evaluation of the data were required for these low-K, plagioclase- and hornblende-bearing tephras. Dating of subsurface core material provides the first subsurface-to-outcrop tie in Cook Inlet between well 212-24 in the Beluga River Unit and deposits in the Clam Gulch, Diamond Creek, and Fox Creek areas. The new 40Ar/39Ar chronostratigraphic framework place the age of upper part of the Kenai Group strata between 4.6 and 9.4 Ma and support the 8-Ma interpretation of the boundary between the Homerian and Clamgulchian paleobotanical stages. The 49-Ma age from core data in Pioneer Unit suggests the Tyonek Formation is older than previously thought or that these units belong to an older formation. The chronostratigraphic framework demonstrates significant offset on faults along the Kenai Peninsula, the presence of faults in slumps and vegetated areas, disconformities in the stratigraphic succession, and that parts of the Sterling and Beluga formations are time-equivalent strata representing lateral facies variations. Based on crosscutting relations and structural folding, the established chronohorizons indicate that much of the structural deformation in Cook Inlet is no older than early Pliocene in age. The repeated section, due to faulting and the coeval nature of the formations, could significantly affect previous resource assessments of coal and hydrocarbon distributions.

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