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U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1248

Geologic and Geochronologic Studies of the Early Proterozoic Kanektok Metamorphic Complex of Southwestern Alaska

By Donald L. Turner, Robert B. Forbes, John N. Aleinikoff, Ian McDougall, and Carl E. Hedge
Preface by Frederic H. Wilson, Paul W. Layer, and Chad P. Hults


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The Kanektok complex of southwestern Alaska appears to be a rootless terrane of early Proterozoic sedimentary, volcanic, and intrusive rocks which were metamorphosed to amphibolite and granulite facies and later underwent a pervasive late Mesozoic thermal event accompanied by granitic plutonism and greenschist facies metamorphism of overlying sediments. The terrane is structurally complex and exhibits characteristics generally attributed to mantled gneiss domes.

U-Th-Pb analyses of zircon and sphene from a core zone granitic orthogneiss indicate that the orthogneiss protolith crystallized about 2.05 b.y. ago and that the protolithic sedimentary, volcanic and granitic intrusive rocks of the core zone were metamorphosed to granulite and amphibolite facies about 1.77 b.y. ago. A Rb-Sr study of 13 whole-rock samples also suggests metamorphism of an early Proterozoic [Paleoproterozoic] protolith at 1.77 Ga, although the data are scattered and difficult to interpret.

Seventy-seven conventional 40K/40Ar mineral ages were determined for 58 rocks distributed throughout the outcrop area of the complex. Analysis of the K-Ar data indicate that nearly all of these ages have been totally or partially reset by a pervasive late Mesozoic thermal event accompanied by granitic plutonism and greenschist facies metamorphism. Several biotites gave apparent K-Ar ages over 2 Ga. These ages appear to be controlled by excess radiogenic 40Ar produced by the degassing protolith during the 1.77 Ga metamorphism and incorporated by the biotites when they were at temperatures at which Ar could diffuse through the lattice.

Five amphibolites yielded apparent Precambrian 40K/40Ar hornblende ages. There is no evidence that these hornblende ages have been increased by excess argon. The oldest 40K/40Ar hornblende age of 1.77 Ga is identical to the sphene 207Pb/206Pb orthogneiss age and to the Rb-Sr “isochron” age for six of the 13 whole-rock samples.

The younger hornblende ages are interpreted as having been partially reset during the late Mesozoic thermal event.

40Ar/39Ar incremental heating experiments suggest metamorphism occurred at least 1.2 b.y. ago but do not exhibit high temperature plateau ages significantly older than the 40Ar/39Ar total fusion ages of these samples. The age spectra are much more uniform than expected from a terrane with such a complex thermal history, perhaps caused by the small grain size of the samples which may possibly be less than the effective Ar diffusion radii of the analyzed hornblendes.

Last modified February 5, 2010
First posted January 7, 2010

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Alaska Science Center

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Suggested citation:

Turner, D.L., Forbes, R.B., Aleinikoff, J.N., McDougall, Ian, and Hedge, C.E., 2009, Geologic and geochronologic studies of the early Proterozoic Kanektok metamorphic complex of southwestern Alaska, with a preface by Wilson, F.H., Layer, P.W., and Hults, C.P.: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1248, 45 p.



History of the Manuscript

New Results and Commentary

References Cited in Preface




Summary and Conclusions


References Cited

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