Purdue University Graduate School
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Sedimentary record of tectonic growth along a convergent margin: Insights from detrital zircon geochronology of Mesozoic sedimentary basins and modern rivers in south-central Alaska

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posted on 2019-12-02, 20:59 authored by Cooper R FasuloCooper R Fasulo

This study presents new detrital zircon geochronologic data from Jurassic to Cretaceous sedimentary basins and modern rivers in south-central Alaska in order to examine the sedimentary record of magmatism and tectonics associated with the Mesozoic to Cenozoic growth of the southern Alaska convergent margin. Jurassic to Cretaceous strata of the Wrangell Mountains, Nutzotin, and Wellesly basins formed coeval with the Mesozoic accretion of the Wrangellia composite terrane (WCT) to the continental margin. New detrital zircon data from the Wrangell Mountains and Nutzotin basins demonstrate that these basins were derived primarily from sources associated with the WCT, with little to no derivation from continental margin sources. Detrital zircon ages from the Wrangell Mountains and Nutzotin basins are very similar, suggesting that these basins may have initially formed in a connected retroarc basin system. New detrital zircon data from the Wellesly basin show that the basin was source chiefly from continental margin sources. These ages show that the Wellesly basin is not related to the Nutzotin basin as previously suggested, and may be genetically related to the Kahiltna basin; this suggests that ~330-390 km of post-collisional strike-slip offset occurred along the Denali Fault. Comparing our new data with a regional detrital zircon database from similar-aged depocenters shows that there is a strong provenance and temporal link between outboard and inboard depocenters, with these depocenters being sourced from the same magmatic arcs from the late Jurassic to the late Cretaceous. Our findings from these comparisons are most consistent with a scenario where the WCT was accreted to the margin along an eastward-dipping subduction zone, in contrast to recent suggestions that the accretion was the result of westward-dipping subduction. New and previously published detrital zircon ages from the Tanana, Matanuska-Susitna, and Copper River watersheds in south-central Alaska document the major magmatic episodes that occurred along the southern Alaska convergent margin. These magmatic episodes display a periodicity that is similar to documented cyclic magmatic patterns in other regions along the Cordilleran margin, suggesting similar processes may be occurring margin-wide. The magmatic record of south-central Alaska can also be compared with the magmatic record of other regions in the northern Cordillera such as the Coast Plutonic Complex in British Columbia and the western Alaska Peninsula, which shows a spatial and temporal relationship of magmatism along the entire northern Cordilleran margin.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Kenneth Ridgway

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Christopher Andronicos

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Nathaniel Lifton