Journal article Open Access

The evolution of forearc structures along an oblique convergent margin, central Aleutian Arc

Ryan, Holly F.; Scholl, David W.

Multichannel seismic reflection data were used to determine the evolutionary history of the forearc region of the central Aleutian Ridge. Since at least late Miocene time this sector of the ridge has been obliquely underthrust 30° west of orthogonal convergence by the northwestward converging Pacific plate at a rate of 80–90 km/m.y. Our data indicate that prior to late Eocene time the forearc region was composed of rocks of the arc massif thinly mantled by slope deposits; the forearc region probably lacked both major depositional basins and a tectonically attached accretionary prism of offscraped oceanic deposits. Beginning in latest Miocene or earliest Pliocene time, a zone of outer‐arc structural highs and a forearc basin began to form. Formation of these companion intraarc structures may be linked to the late Neogene growth of an accretionary wedge that formed as the result of the deposition of a thick turbidite wedge in the Aleutian Trench. Initial structures of the zone of outer‐arc highs formed as the thickening wedge underran, compressively deformed, and uplifted the seaward edge of the arc massif above a landward dipping backstop thrust. Forearc basin strata ponded arcward of the elevating zone of outer‐arc highs. However, most younger structures of the zone of outer‐arc highs cannot be ascribed simply to the orthogonal effects of an underrunning wedge. Oblique convergence created a major right‐lateral shear zone (the Hawley Ridge shear zone) that longitudinally disrupted the zone of outer‐arc highs, truncating the seaward flank of the forearc basin and shearing the southern limb of Hawley Ridge, an exceptionally large antiformal outer‐arc high structure. Slivers of forearc basement rocks and overlying strata have been transported along the shear zone that is flanked by differentially elevated structures attributed to localized transpressive and transtensional processes. Uplift of Hawley Ridge may be related to the thickening of the arc massif by westward directed basement duplexes. In addition, the forearc is disrupted by structures transverse to the margin that occur where unusually high‐stress accumulations have resulted in the rupture of repeated great earthquakes. It is likely that many ancient active margins evolved in tectonic and depositional settings similar to those of the central Aleutian Ridge. Great structural complexity, including the close juxtaposition of coeval structures recording compression, extension, differential vertical movements, and strike‐slip displacement, should be expected, even within areas of generally kindred tectonostratigraphic terranes.

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