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Understanding Earth processes and human impacts, plus another look at Mars
Date:3/27/2013

/dx.doi.org/10.1130/G33900.1">http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/G33900.1.

In southern Alaska, the oceanic Pacific plate and a thick oceanic plateau, the Yakutat Terrane, both underthrust (subduct beneath) the North America plate along the Aleutian Trench and the leading fault of the Pamplona Zone. These Pacific and Yakutat plates are also sliding past each other at minimal rates along the Transition fault located at the base of the continental shelf. As the faults of the Pamplona Zone stepped eastward during the last few million years, the intersection of these three plates (Pacific, Yakutat, and North America) became unstable. Four recent images into the subsurface reveal that the Transition fault changes from a single fault east of the Pamplona Zone to three strands that step increasingly seaward as they approach the intersections with the Aleutian Trench. These southern two faults actually break the Pacific crust, and some vertical motion via thrusting has occurred on the southern one within the last million years and continuing today. S.P.S. Gulick and colleagues propose that this deformation of the Pacific plate is an attempt to re-attain stability, which can only be reached by creating a tectonic boundary that lines up with the leading fault of the Pamplona Zone, which is more northeasterly that the current trend of the Aleutian Trench. For a junction of three plates that includes faults of these types (two plates underthrusting a third) to migrate together through time and thus be "stable," the two faults where the underthrusting occur (i.e., along the Aleutian Trench) must be in a line on Earth's surface. Thus, Gulick and colleagues observe plate reorganization in progress in southeast Alaska and note that this reorganization will result a portion of the Pacific crust underthrusting itself in a rarely observed initiation of subduction event. The net effect of this new underthrusting is that a portion of the Pacific crust will be attached to the North Am
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Contact: Kea Giles
kgiles@geosociety.org
Geological Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

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