The finding updates the geological evolution of the Arctic Ocean and could help revise predictions about the Arctic’s oil, gas and mineral wealth.
By explaining the formation of the Arctic Ocean in the Western Hemisphere — known as the Amerasian Basin — the research provides more clues into the geological history of the rapidly changing region.
“This is arguably the most important place for the United States from the perspective of Arctic economic development,” said Justin Strauss, an assistant professor of earth science at Dartmouth. “The geology of this region, which is directly connected to its ancient history, will help revise our knowledge about natural resources in the Arctic.”
The existing model for the formation of the Arctic Ocean along the U.S. and Canada border region details how seismic activity, known as faulting, caused Alaska to rotate away from a western band of islands in the Canadian Arctic starting approximately 125 million years ago.
Under this original “rotation” scenario, parts of the Brooks Range should match perfectly with Canada’s Banks Island and Victoria Island about 450 hundred miles away.
But after close to ten years studying exposed rocks in the region, the Dartmouth studies show that the area actually contains rocks with origins as far away as 1,200 miles to the east. The results were recently published in a Special Papers series by the Geological Society of America.