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U.S. Geological Survey
Professional Paper 1626
2000

Phanerozoic Tectonic Evolution of the Circum-North Pacific

By

Warren J. Nokleberg, Leonid M. Parfenov, James W.H. Monger, Ian O. Norton, Alexander I. Khanchuk, David B. Stone, Christopher R. Scotese, David W. Scholl, and Kazuya Fujita

thumbnail view map of northern Pacific showing Siberia on the left and Canada on the right with the North Pole at the top

ABSTRACT

The Phanerozoic tectonic evolution of the Circum-North Pacific is recorded mainly in the orogenic collages of the Circum-North Pacific mountain belts that separate the North Pacific from the eastern part of the North Asian Craton and the western part of the North American Craton. These collages consist of tectonostratigraphic terranes that are composed of fragments of igneous arcs, accretionary-wedge and subduction-zone complexes, passive continental margins, and cratons; they are overlapped by continental-margin-arc and sedimentary-basin assemblages. The geologic history of the terranes and overlap assemblages is highly complex because of postaccretionary dismemberment and translation during strike-slip faulting that occurred subparallel to continental margins.We analyze the complex tectonics of this region by the following steps. (1) We assign tectonic environments for the orogenic collages from regional compilation and synthesis of stratigraphic and faunal data. The types of tectonic environments include cratonal, passive continental margin, metamorphosed continental margin, continental-margin arc, island arc, oceanic crust, seamount, ophiolite, accretionary wedge, subduction
zone, turbidite basin, and metamorphic. (2) We make correlations between terranes. (3) We group coeval terranes into a single tectonic origin, for example, a single island arc or subduction zone. (4) We group igneous-arc and subduction- zone terranes, which are interpreted as being tectonically linked, into coeval, curvilinear arc/subduction-zone complexes. (5) We interpret the original positions of terranes, using geologic, faunal, and paleomagnetic data. (6) We construct the paths of tectonic migration.

Six processes overlapping in time were responsible for most of the complexities of the collage of terranes and overlap assemblages around the Circum-North Pacific, as follows. (1) During the Late Proterozoic, Late Devonian, and Early Carboniferous, major periods of rifting occurred along the ancestral margins of present-day Northeast Asia and northwestern North America. The rifting resulted in the fragmentation of each continent and the formation of cratonal and passive continental-margin terranes that eventually migrated and accreted to other sites along the evolving margins of the original or adjacent continents. (2) From about the Late Triassic through the mid-Cretaceous, a succession of island arcs and tectonically paired subduction zones formed near the continental margins. (3) From about mainly the mid-Cretaceous through the present, a succession of igneous arcs and tectonically paired subduction zones formed along the continental margins. (4) From about the Jurassic to the present, oblique convergence and rotations caused orogenparallel sinistral and then dextral displacements within the upper-plate margins of cratons that have become Northeast Asia and North America. The oblique convergences and rotations resulted in the fragmentation, displacement, and duplication of formerly more nearly continuous arcs, subduction zones, and passive continental margins. These fragments were subsequently accreted along the expanding continental margins. (5) From the Early Jurassic through Tertiary, movement of the upper continental plates toward subduction zones resulted in strong plate coupling and accretion of the former island arcs and subduction zones to the continental margins. Accretions were accompanied and followed by crustal thickening, anatexis, metamorphism, and uplift. The accretions resulted in substantial growth of the North Asian and North American Continents. (6) During the middle and late Cenozoic, oblique to orthogonal convergence of the Pacifi c plate with present-day Alaska and Northeast Asia resulted in formation of the modern-day ring of volcanoes around the Circum-North Pacific. Oblique convergence between the Pacific plate and Alaska also resulted in major dextral-slip faulting in interior and southern Alaska and along the western part of the Aleutian-Wrangell arc. Associated with dextral-slip faulting was crustal extrusion of terranes from western Alaska into the
Bering Sea.

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URL of this page: http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/2000/1626/
Maintained by: Michael Diggles
Created: December 15, 2000
Last modified: May 18, 2006 (mfd)