Strain accumulation across the Denali Fault in the Delta River Canyon, Alaska


  • J. C. Savage,

  • M. Lisowski,

  • W. H. Prescott


Deformation along the Denali fault in the Delta River canyon was determined from geodetic surveys in 1941/1942, 1970, 1975, and 1979. The data were best for the 1975–1979 interval; in that period the average strain accumulation was essentially pure right lateral shear at a rate of 0.6 ± 0.1 μrad/a (a is years) (engineering shear) across a vertical plane striking N87°E. The plane of maximum shear is rotated about 30° counterclockwise from the local strike of the Denali fault but closely coincides with the strike of a major linear segment of the fault that begins 50 km farther west. The deformation between 1941/1942 and 1970 is consistent with a similar rate of strain accumulation if one removes the coseismic strain step contributed by the 1964 Alaska earthquake. The 1970–1975 deformation is poorly defined owing to uncertainties in the 1970 survey, but the strain accumulation during that period is certainly much less than during the 1975–1979 interval. The 1975–1979 strain accumulation is interpreted by means of a dislocation model which suggests that the Denali fault in the vicinity of the Delta River Canyon behaves as a leaky transform fault (i.e., a source of spreading as well as lateral slip). The block south of the Denali fault appears to be moving westward (parallel to the strike of the Denali fault west of the 147th meridian) at the rate of about 20 mm/a relative to the North American plate. Because the linear segment of the Denali fault east of the 147th meridian (along which the geodetic network is located) strikes N63°W, accommodation of the westward motion of the southern block requires some spreading within the fault zone as well as right lateral slip on the fault.