Structural syntaxes, tectonic aneurysms, and fault-bounded fore-arc slivers are important tectonic elements of orogenic belts worldwide. In this study we used high-resolution topography, geodetic imaging, seismic, and geologic data to advance understanding of how these features evolved during accretion of the Yakutat Terrane to North America. Because glaciers extend over much of the orogen, the topography and dynamics of the glaciers were analyzed to infer the location and nature of faults and shear zones that lie buried beneath the ice. The Fairweather transform fault system terminates by oblique-extensional splay faulting within a structural syntaxis, where thrust faulting and contractional strain drive rapid tectonic uplift and rock exhumation beneath the upper Seward Glacier. West of the syntaxis, oblique plate convergence created a dextral shear zone beneath the Bagley Ice Valley that may have been reactivated by reverse faulting when the subduction megathrust stepped eastward during the last 5–6 Ma. The Bagley fault zone dips steeply through the upper plate to intersect the subduction megathrust at depth, forming a fault-bounded crustal sliver capable of partitioning oblique convergence into strike-slip and thrust motion. Since ca. 20 Ma the Bagley fault accommodated more than 50 km of dextral shearing and several kilometers of reverse motion along its southern flank during terrane accretion. The fault is considered capable of generating earthquakes because it is suitably oriented for reactivation in the contemporary stress field, links to faults that generated large historic earthquakes, and is locally marked by seismicity.
- Received 27 March 2012.
- Revision received 5 September 2012.
- Accepted 13 September 2012.
- © 2012 Geological Society of America