Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2021-63
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2021-63

  16 Jun 2021

16 Jun 2021

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

No evidence for tephra in Greenland from the historic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE: Implications for geochronology and paleoclimatology

Gill Plunkett1, Michael Sigl2, Hans Schwaiger3, Emma Tomlinson4, Matthew Toohey5, Joseph R. McConnell6, Jonathan R. Pilcher1, Takeshi Hasegawa7, and Claus Siebe8 Gill Plunkett et al.
  • 1Archaeology & Palaeoecology, School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast BT7 1NN, UK
  • 2Climate and Environmental Physics and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
  • 3Alaska Volcano Observatory, U.S. Geological Survey, 4230 University Drive, Suite 100, Anchorage, AK, 99508, USA
  • 4Department of Geology, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  • 5Institute of Space and Atmospheric Studies, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
  • 6Desert Research Institute, Nevada System of Higher Education, Reno, Nevada 89512, USA
  • 7Department of Earth Sciences, College of Science, Ibaraki University, 2-1-1 Bunkyo, Mito 310-8512, Japan
  • 8Department of Volcanology, Institute of Geophysics, National Autonomous University of Mexico, C.P. 04510, Coyoacán, Mexico

Abstract. Volcanic signatures archived in polar ice sheets provide important opportunities to date and correlate ice-core records as well as to investigate the environmental impacts of eruptions. Only the geochemical characterization of volcanic ash (tephra) embedded in the ice strata can confirm the source of the eruption, however, and is a requisite if historical eruption ages are to be used as valid chronological checks on annual ice layer counting. Here we report the investigation of ash particles in a Greenland ice core that are associated with a volcanic sulfuric acid layer previously attributed to the 79 CE eruption of Vesuvius. Major and trace element composition of the particles indicates that the tephra does not derive from Vesuvius but most likely originates from an unidentified eruption in the Aleutian arc. Using ash dispersal modelling, we find that only an eruption large enough to include stratospheric injection is likely to account for the sizeable (24–85 μm) ash particles observed in the Greenland ice at this time. Despite its likely explosivity, this event does not appear to have triggered significant climate perturbations, unlike some other large extra-tropical eruptions. In light of a recent re-evaluation of the Greenland ice-core chronologies, our findings further challenge the previous dating of this volcanic event to 79 CE. We highlight the need for the revised Common Era ice-core chronology to be formally accepted by the wider ice-core and climate modelling communities in order to ensure robust age linkages to precisely dated historical and paleoclimate proxy records.

Gill Plunkett et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on cp-2021-63', Lauren Davies, 26 Jul 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on cp-2021-63', Eliza Cook, 26 Jul 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Gill Plunkett, 28 Sep 2021
  • CC1: 'Comment on cp-2021-63: a well written and significant paper', Larry Mastin, 10 Aug 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Gill Plunkett, 28 Sep 2021

Gill Plunkett et al.

Gill Plunkett et al.

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Short summary
We report the identification of volcanic ash associated with a sulfate layer in Greenland ice cores previously thought to have been from the Vesuvius 79 CE eruption and which had been used to confirm the precise dating of the Greenland ice-core chronology. We find that the tephra was produced by an eruption probably in Alaska. We show the importance of verifying sources of volcanic signals in ice cores through ash analysis to avoid errors in dating ice cores and interpreting volcanic impacts.