A synthesis of Late Jurassic and Early Cretaceous collision-related metamorphic events in the Arctic Alaska–Chukotka microplate clarifies its likely movement history during opening of the Amerasian and Canada basins. Comprehensive tectonic reconstructions of basin opening have been problematic, in part, because of the large size of the microplate, uncertainties in the location and kinematics of structures bounding the microplate, and lack of information on its internal deformation history. Many reconstructions have treated Arctic Alaska and Chukotka as a single crustal entity largely on the basis of similarities in their Mesozoic structural trends and similar late Proterozoic and early Paleozoic histories. Others have located Chukotka near Siberia during the Triassic and Jurassic, on the basis of detrital zircon age populations, and suggested that it was Arctic Alaska alone that rotated. The Mesozoic metamorphic histories of Arctic Alaska and Chukotka can be used to test the validity of these two approaches.
A synthesis of the distribution, character, and timing of metamorphic events reveals substantial differences in the histories of the southern margin of the microplate in Chukotka in comparison to Arctic Alaska and places specific limitations on tectonic reconstructions. During the Late Jurassic and earliest Cretaceous, the Arctic Alaska margin was subducted to the south, while the Chukotka margin was the upper plate of a north-dipping subduction zone or a zone of transpression. An early Aptian blueschist- and greenschist-facies belt records the most profound crustal thickening event in the evolution of the orogen. It may have resulted in thicknesses of 50–60 km and was likely the cause of flexural subsidence in the foredeep of the Brooks Range. This event involved northern Alaska and northeasternmost Chukotka; it did not involve central and western Chukotka. Arctic Alaska and Chukotka evolved separately until the Aptian thickening event, which was likely a result of the rotation of Arctic Alaska into central and western Chukotka. In northeastern Chukotka, the thickened rocks are separated from the relatively little thickened continental crust of the remainder of Chukotka by the oceanic rocks of the Kolyuchin-Mechigmen zone. The zone is a candidate for an Early Cretaceous suture that separated most of Chukotka from northeast Chukotka and Alaska. Albian patterns of magmatism, metamorphism, and deformation in Chukotka and the Seward Peninsula may represent an example of escape tectonics that developed in response to final amalgamation of Chukotka with Eurasia.
- Received 6 June 2015.
- Revision received 27 January 2016.
- Accepted 8 February 2016.
- © 2016 Geological Society of America