The impact of climate and tectonics on sedimentary and deformational processes, Gulf of Alaska
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Collision of the Yakutat Terrane with North America in southern Alaska has driven growth of the Chugach-St. Elias orogen. Glaciation of the St. Elias Range has periodically increased since the Miocene, but began dominating erosion and spurred enhanced exhumation since the mid-Pleistocene transition at ~1 Ma. Ice associated with this glacial intensification carved cross-shelf sea valleys that connect the St. Elias Range to the deep-sea Surveyor Fan. A newly increased terrigenous sediment flux into the fan triggered the formation and growth of the Surveyor Channel. The change in geomorphology observed throughout Fan sequences allows us to characterize the influence that a glaciated orogen can have in shaping margin processes and the sediment pathways from source to sink. Seismic data also reveal an isolated, large, short runout, mass-transport deposit (MTD) buried in the Surveyor Fan. The MTD geometry, size and location on a convergent margin lend support to recent studies suggesting seismic strengthening and infrequent sediment failure on active margins. This study provides insight into the magnitude and scope of events required to cause submarine mega-slides and overcome higher than normal sediment shear strength, including the influence of climate and sea level change. Beneath the Surveyor Fan, integrated geophysical data reveals massive intraplate shearing, and a lack of oceanic crust magnetic lineaments in regions of Pacific Plate crust. We argue that stress from the Yakutat-North America collision transferred outboard to the Pacific Plate is the major driver for the deformation causing these features. This stress would have resulted in significant strain in the NE corner of the Pacific Plate, creating pathways for sill formation in the crust and Surveyor Fan. The collision further intensified as the thickest Yakutat portion began to subduct during the Pleistocene, possibly providing the impetus for the creation of the Gulf of Alaska Shear Zone, a >200 km zone of shear extending out into the Pacific Plate. This study highlights the importance of farfield stress from complex tectonic regimes in consideration of large-scale oceanic intraplate deformation.