The role of farfield tectonic stress in oceanic intraplate deformation, Gulf of Alaska


Corresponding author: R. S. Reece, Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, J.J. Pickle Research Campus, Building 196, 10100 Burnet Road, Austin, TX 78758-4445, USA. (


[1] An integration of geophysical data from the Pacific Plate reveals plate bending anomalies, massive intraplate shearing and deformation, and a lack of oceanic crust magnetic lineaments in different regions across the Gulf of Alaska. We argue that farfield stress from the Yakutat Terrane collision with North America is the major driver for these unusual features. Similar plate motion vectors indicate that the Pacific plate and Yakutat Terrane are largely coupled along their boundary, the Transition Fault, with minimal translation. Our study shows that the Pacific Plate subduction angle shallows toward the Yakutat Terrane and supports the theory that the Pacific Plate and Yakutat Terrane maintain coupling along the subducted region of the Transition Fault. We argue that the outboard transfer of collisional stress to the Pacific Plate could have resulted in significant strain in the NE corner of the Pacific Plate, which created pathways for igneous sill formation just above the Pacific Plate crust in the Surveyor Fan. A shift in Pacific Plate motion during the late Miocene altered the Yakutat collision with North America, changing the stress transfer regime and potentially terminating associated strain in the NE corner of the Pacific Plate. The collision further intensified as the thickest portion of the Yakutat Terrane began to subduct during the Pleistocene, possibly providing the impetus for the creation of the Gulf of Alaska Shear Zone, a > 200 km zone of intraplate strike-slip faults that extend from the Transition Fault out into the Pacific Plate. This study highlights the importance of farfield stress from complex tectonic regimes in consideration of large-scale oceanic intraplate deformation.