Abstract

Regional magnetotelluric surveys recently completed across the central and eastern Alaska Range of Alaska provide evidence for large volumes of conductive rocks beneath the core of the range. These conductive rocks may represent a formerly extensive, but now collapsed, Mesozoic flysch basin formed on the leading edge of the Talkeetna superterrane (amalgamated Wrangellia, Peninsular, and Alexander terranes). The docking of the Talkeetna superterrane caused large-scale oblique thrusting, folding, and metamorphism in the flysch basin, and formation of a megasuture along which the Cenozoic strike-slip Denali fault system developed. The deep magnetotelluric soundings and seismic reflection data suggest the possibility that the highly conductive rocks were tectonically emplaced beneath the thin crystalline sheet constituting the southern Yukon-Tanana terrane over a broad region of the Alaska Range. The conductive rocks are locally correlated with surface outcrops of Mesozoic black shales that are part of Upper Jurassic and Cretaceous flysch but may be composed of Paleozoic carbonaceous shales as well. In either case, their extremely low resistivities make them a valuable marker horizon for tectonic studies. The conductive rocks are interpreted to extend to depths of greater than 20 km and were mapped north and northeast of the Denali fault for more than 50 km. The magnetotelluric surveys represent the first large-scale surveys done in Alaska, but the structures mapped are similar to those observed in large, compressed flysch basins in the eastern Alps and Carpathian Mountains of Europe. The results of these surveys bear on several key tectonic questions, including development of the ancestral Denali fault, and collapse and possible underplating of an extensive Mesozoic flysch system and associated igneous arc.

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