College, AK, United States
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Liljedahl A.K.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Boike J.,Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research | Daanen R.P.,354 College Road | Fedorov A.N.,Melnikov Permafrost Institute | And 17 more authors.
Nature Geoscience | Year: 2016

Ice wedges are common features of the subsurface in permafrost regions. They develop by repeated frost cracking and ice vein growth over hundreds to thousands of years. Ice-wedge formation causes the archetypal polygonal patterns seen in tundra across the Arctic landscape. Here we use field and remote sensing observations to document polygon succession due to ice-wedge degradation and trough development in ten Arctic localities over sub-decadal timescales. Initial thaw drains polygon centres and forms disconnected troughs that hold isolated ponds. Continued ice-wedge melting leads to increased trough connectivity and an overall draining of the landscape. We find that melting at the tops of ice wedges over recent decades and subsequent decimetre-scale ground subsidence is a widespread Arctic phenomenon. Although permafrost temperatures have been increasing gradually, we find that ice-wedge degradation is occurring on sub-decadal timescales. Our hydrological model simulations show that advanced ice-wedge degradation can significantly alter the water balance of lowland tundra by reducing inundation and increasing runoff, in particular due to changes in snow distribution as troughs form. We predict that ice-wedge degradation and the hydrological changes associated with the resulting differential ground subsidence will expand and amplify in rapidly warming permafrost regions. © 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.


Shimer G.T.,Whitman College | Benowitz J.A.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Layer P.W.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | McCarthy P.J.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | And 2 more authors.
Cretaceous Research | Year: 2016

Diagenetically altered volcanic ash deposits (bentonites) found in Cretaceous terrestrial and marine foreland basin sediments have the potential to be used for chronostratigraphy and subsurface correlation across Alaska's North Slope. Detailed age and geochemical studies of these volcanogenic deposits may also shed light on the tectonic evolution of the Arctic. Though these bentonites have been previously studied, there are few published results for regional bentonite ages and geochemistry due to challenges of dating weathered volcanic ash. We analyzed mineral separates from cored bentonites recovered from wells in the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska. The analyses confirm that an intense period of volcanic ash deposition on Alaska's North Slope began by the late Albian and persisted throughout the Cenomanian, an interval of rapid progradation and aggradation in the Colville basin. These results also add to a sparse record of radioisotopic ages from the Nanushuk Formation. A bentonite preserved in delta plain sediments in the upper Nanushuk Formation dates to 102.6 ± 1.5 Ma (late Albian), while a bentonite near the base of the overlying Seabee Formation was deposited at 98.2 ± 0.8 Ma, in the early Cenomanian. The two ages bracket a major flooding surface at the base of the Seabee Formation near Umiat, Alaska, placing it near the Albian-Cenomanian boundary (100.5 Ma). Several hundred feet up-section, the non-marine Tuluvak Formation contains bentonites with 40Ar/39Ar ages of 96.7 ± 0.7 to 94.2 ± 0.9 Ma (Cenomanian), several million years older than previously published K-Ar ages and biostratigraphic constraints suggest. Major and trace element geochemistry of a sub-sample of six bentonites from petroleum exploration wells at Umiat show a range in composition from andesite to rhyolite, with a continental arc source. The bentonites become more felsic from the late Albian (~102 Ma) to late Cenomanian (~94 Ma). A likely source for the bentonites is the Okhotsk-Chukotka Volcanic Belt (OCVB) of eastern Siberia, a continental arc which became active in the Albian and experienced episodes of effusivity throughout the Late Cretaceous. Chronostratigraphically anomalous 40Ar/39Ar ages coincide with peaks of magmatic activity in the OCVB, suggesting that these anomalously old ages may be due to magmatic contribution of xenocrysts or recycling of detrital minerals from older volcanic events. An alternative explanation for the chronostratigraphically anomalous ages is mixing of bentonites with detrital sediment derived from unroofing and erosion of metamorphic rocks in the Brooks Range, Herald Arch, and Chukotka throughout the mid to Late Cretaceous. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


Prentice C.S.,U.S. Geological Survey | Mann P.,University of Texas at Austin | Crone A.J.,U.S. Geological Survey | Gold R.D.,U.S. Geological Survey | And 4 more authors.
Nature Geoscience | Year: 2010

The Enriquillog-Plantain Garden fault zone is recognized as one of the primary plate-bounding fault systems in Haiti. The strike-slip fault runs adjacent to the city of Port-au-Prince and was initially thought to be the source of the 12 January 2010, M w 7.0 earthquake. Haiti experienced significant earthquakes in 1751 and 1770 (refsA, 3, 4, 5), but the role of the Enriquillog-Plantain Garden fault zone in these earthquakes is poorly known. We use satellite imagery, aerial photography, light detection and ranging (LIDAR) and field investigations to document Quaternary activity on the Enriquillog-Plantain Garden fault. We report late Quaternary, left-lateral offsets of up to 160m, and a set of small offsets ranging from 1.3 to 3.3m that we associate with one of the eighteenth century earthquakes. The size of the small offsets implies that the historical earthquake was larger than M w 7.0, but probably smaller than M w 7.6. We found no significant surface rupture associated with the 2010 earthquake. The lack of surface rupture, coupled with other seismologic, geologic and geodetic observations, suggests that little, if any, accumulated strain was released on the Enriquillog-Plantain Garden fault in the 2010 earthquake. These results confirm that the Enriquillog-Plantain Garden fault remains a significant seismic hazard. © 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.


Bemis S.P.,University of Kentucky | Carver G.A.,Carver Geologic Inc. | Koehler R.D.,354 College Road
Geosphere | Year: 2012

The framework of Quaternary faults in Alaska remains poorly constrained. Recent studies in the Alaska Range north of the Denali fault add significantly to the recognition of Quaternary deformation in this active orogen. Faults and folds active during the Quaternary occur over a length of ~500 km along the northern flank of the Alaska Range, extending from Mount McKinley (Denali) eastward to the Tok River valley. These faults exist as a continuous system of active structures, but we divide the system into four regions based on east-west changes in structural style. At the western end, the Kantishna Hills have only two known faults but the highest rate of shallow crustal seismicity. The western northern foothills fold-thrust belt consists of a 50-km-wide zone of subparallel thrust and reverse faults. This broad zone of deformation narrows to the east in a transition zone where the range-bounding fault of the western northern foothills fold-thrust belt terminates and displacement occurs on thrust and/or reverse faults closer to the Denali fault. The eastern northern foothills foldthrust belt is characterized by ~40-km-long thrust fault segments separated across leftsteps by NNE-trending left-lateral faults. Altogether, these faults accommodate much of the topographic growth of the northern flank of the Alaska Range. Recognition of this thrust fault system represents a significant concern in addition to the Denali fault for infrastructure adjacent to and transecting the Alaska Range. Although additional work is required to characterize these faults sufficiently for seismic hazard analysis, the regional extent and structural character should require the consideration of the northern Alaska Range thrust system in regional tectonic models. © 2012 Geological Society of America.


Benowitz J.A.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Haeussler P.J.,U.S. Geological Survey | Layer P.W.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | O'Sullivan P.B.,Apatite to Zircon Inc. | And 2 more authors.
Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems | Year: 2012

Topographic development inboard of the continental margin is a predicted response to ridge subduction. New thermochronology results from the western Alaska Range document ridge subduction related orogenesis. K-feldspar thermochronology (KFAT) of bedrock samples from the Tordrillo Mountains in the western Alaska Range complement existing U-Pb, 40Ar/ 39Ar and AFT (apatite fission track) data to provide constraints on Paleocene pluton emplacement, and cooling as well as Late Eocene to Miocene vertical movements and exhumation along fault-bounded blocks. Based on the KFAT analysis we infer rapid exhumation-related cooling during the Eocene in the Tordrillo Mountains. Our KFAT cooling ages are coeval with deposition of clastic sediments in the Cook Inlet, Matanuska Valley and Tanana basins, which reflect high-energy depositional environments. The Tordrillo Mountains KFAT cooling ages are also the same as cooling ages in the Iliamna Lake region, the Kichatna Mountains of the western Alaska Range, and Mt. Logan in the Wrangell-St. Elias Mountains, thus rapid cooling at this time encompasses a broad region inboard of, and parallel to, the continental margin extending for several hundred kilometers. We infer these cooling events and deposition of clastic rocks are related to thermal effects that track the eastward passage of a slab window in Paleocene-Eocene time related to the subduction of the proposed Resurrection-Kula spreading ridge. In addition, we conclude that the reconstructed KFAT max negative age-elevation relationship is likely related to a long period of decreasing relief in the Tordrillo Mountains. Copyright 2012 by the American Geophysical Union.


Mastin L.G.,U.S. Geological Survey | Schwaiger H.,U.S. Geological Survey | Schneider D.J.,U.S. Geological Survey | Wallace K.L.,U.S. Geological Survey | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research | Year: 2013

Among the events of the 2009 eruption at Redoubt Volcano, Alaska, event 5 was the best documented by radar, satellite imagery, and deposit mapping. We use the new Eulerian tephra transport model Ash3d to simulate transport and deposition of event 5 tephra at distances up to 350km. The eruption, which started at about 1230UTC on 23 March, 2009, sent a plume from the vent elevation (estimated at 2.3±0.1km above sea level or a.s.l.) to about 16±2km above sea level in 5min. The plume was a few kilometers higher than would be expected for the estimated average mass eruption rate and atmospheric conditions, possibly due to release of most of the eruptive mass in the first half of the 20-minute event. The eruption injected tephra into a wind field of high shear, with weak easterly winds below ~3km elevation, strong southerly winds at 6-10km and weak westerlies above ~16km. Model simulations in this wind field predicted development of a northward-migrating inverted "v"-shaped cloud with a southwest-trending arm at a few kilometers elevation, which was not visible in IR satellite images due to cloud cover, and a southeast-trending arm at >10km elevation that was clearly visible. Simulations also predicted a deposit distribution that strongly depended on plume height: a plume height below 15km predicted ash deposits that were located west of those mapped, whereas good agreement was reached with a modeled plume height of 15-18km. Field sampling of the deposit found it to contain abundant tephra aggregates, which accelerated the removal of tephra from the atmosphere. We were able to reasonably approximate the effect of aggregation on the deposit mass distribution by two methods: (1) adjusting the grain-size distribution, taking the erupted mass <=0.063mm in diameter and distributing it evenly into bins of coarser size; and (2) moving 80-90% of the mass <=0.063mm into a single particle bin ranging in size from 0.25 to 1mm. These methods produced an area inside the 100gm-2 isomass lines that was within a few tens of percent of mapped area; however they under-predicted deposit mass at very proximal (<50km) and very distal (>250km) locations. Modeled grain-size distributions at sample locations are also generally coarser than observed. The mismatch may result from a combination of limitations in field sampling, approximations inherent in the model, errors in the numerical wind field, and aggregation of particles larger than 0.063mm. © 2012.

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