Paleoclimatic evidence for Cenozoic migration of Alaskan terranes

Gerta Keller, R. von Huene, K. McDougall, T. R. Bruns

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Chronostratigraphic and paleoclimatic comparisons of microfossils from deep‐sea cores, from samples of an exploratory drill hole, and from dredged rock of the Gulf of Alaska with coeval microfossil assemblages on the North American continent provide constraints on the northward migration of the Yakutat block, the Prince William terrane and the Pacific plate during Tertiary time. The comparative paleolatitudes of microfauna and flora provide three main constraints. (1) The Prince William terrane was in its present position with respect to North America (at high latitudes, 50° ± 5°N) by middle Eocene time (40–42 Ma), consistent with models derived from paleomagnetic data. (2) The adjacent Yakutat block was 30° ± 5° south of its present position in early Eocene (50 Ma), 20° ± 5° south in middle Eocene (40–44 Ma), and 15° ± 5° south in late Eocene time (37–40 Ma), thus requiring a northward motion of about 30° since 50 Ma. Moreover, the Yakutat block was at least 10° south of the Prince William terrane during Eocene time. These data are consistent with migration of the Yakutat block with the Pacific and Kula plates for at least the last 50 Ma. (3) site 192 on the Pacific plate was at about 15° ± 5°N latitude in the late Cretaceous (68 Ma), at 30° ± 5°N in early Eocene (50 Ma), at 40° ± 5°N in middle Eocene (40–44 Ma), at 45° ± 5°N in late Eocene (37–40 Ma), and north of 50° ± 5°N in latest Eocene to early Oligocene time (34–37 Ma). These paleolatitudes, based on planktonic foraminiferal assemblages, indicate northward drift consistent with the North America‐Pacific plate reconstructions from about 68 Ma to 40 Ma (Engebretson, 1982). However, from Cretaceous to early Eocené time, faunal data indicate significantly lower latitudinal positions, and from Oligocwne to early Miocene time, significantly higher latitudinal positions. These discrepancies can be explained by the northward expansion of tropical faunas during the globally warm early Tertiary and southward expansion of cold subarctic faunas as a result of global cooling during Oligocene time. This paper is not subject to U.S. copyright. Published in 1984 by the American Geophysical Union.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)473-495
Number of pages23
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1984

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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