Project Information
Collaborative Research: Tephrochronology of a South Pole Ice Core
Short Title:
Tephrochronology of a South Pole Ice Core [Visible Tephra]
Start Date:
End Date:
Project Website(s)
Antarctic ice core tephra records tend to be dominated by proximal volcanism and infrequently contain tephra from distal volcanoes within and off of the continent. Tephra layers in East Antarctic ice cores are largely derived from Northern Victoria Land volcanoes. For example, 43 out of 55 tephra layers in Talos Dome ice core are from local volcanoes. West Antarctic ice cores are dominated by tephra from Marie Byrd Land volcanoes. Thirty-six out of the 52 tephra layers in WAIS are from Mt. Berlin or Mt.Takahe. It would be expected that the majority of the tephra layers found in cores on and adjacent to the Antarctic Peninsula and Weddell Sea should be from Sub-Antarctic islands (e.g., South Sandwich and South Shetland Islands). Unfortunately, these records are poorly characterized, making correlations to the source volcanoes very unlikely. The South Pole ice core (SPICEcore) is uniquely situated to capture the volcanic records from all of these regions of the continent, as well as sub-tropical eruptions with significant global climate signatures. Twelve visible tephra layers have been characterized in SPICEcore and represent tephra produced by volcanoes from the Sub-Antarctic Islands (6), Marie Byrd Land (5), and one from an unknown sub-tropical eruption, likely from South America. Three of these tephra layers correlate to other ice core tephra providing important “pinning points” for timescale calibrations, recently published (Winski et al, 2019). Two tephra layers from Marie Byrd Land correlate to WAIS Divide ice core tephra (15.226ka and 44.864ka), and one tephra eruptive from the South Sandwich Island can be correlated EPICA Dome C, Vostok, and RICE (3.559ka). An additional eight cryptotephra have been characterized, and one layer geochemically correlates with the 1257 C.E. eruption of Samalas volcano in Indonesia. SPICEcore does not have a tephra record dominated by one volcanic region. Instead, it contains more of the tephra layers derived from off-continent volcanic sources. The far-travelled tephra layers from non-Antarctic sources improve our understanding of tephra transport to the interior of Antarctica. The location in the middle of the continent along with the longer transport distances from the local volcanoes has allowed for a unique tephra record to be produced that begins to link more of future ice core records together.
Person Role
Dunbar, Nelia Investigator
Iverson, Nels Investigator
Kurbatov, Andrei V. Investigator and contact
Antarctic Glaciology Award # 1543454
Antarctic Glaciology Award # 1543361
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
0 (raw data)
Repository Title (link) Format(s) Status
USAP-DC Cryptotephra in SPC-14 ice core Excel exists
USAP-DC SPICEcore visable tephra Excel exists
  1. Winski, D. A., Fudge, T. J., Ferris, D. G., Osterberg, E. C., Fegyveresi, J. M., Cole-Dai, J., Thundercloud, Z., Cox, T. S., Kreutz, K. J., Ortman, N., Buizert, C., Epifanio, J., Brook, E. J., Beaudette, R., Severinghaus, J., Sowers, T., Steig, E. J., Kahle, E. C., Jones, T. R., Morris, V., Aydin, M., Nicewonger, M. R., Casey, K. A., Alley, R. B., Waddington, E. D., Iverson, N. A., Bay, R. C., and Souney, J. M. (2019). The SP19 Chronology for the South Pole Ice Core – Part 1: Volcanic matching and annual-layer counting. 15. Climate of the Past, 15. (doi:
  2. Dunbar, N.W., Iverson, N.A., Smellie, J.L., McIntosh, W.C., Zimmerer, M.J., Kyle, P.R. (2021). Active volcanoes of Marie Byrd Land. Volcanism in Antarctica: 200 Million Years of Subduction, Rifting and Continental Break-Up 55. Smellie, J. L., Panter, K.S., and Geyer, A.. Geological Society of London. (DOI: 10.1144/M55-2019-29)
  3. Blong, Russell J. and Kurbatov, Andrei V. "Steps and missteps on the path to a 1665–1668 CE date for the VEI 6 eruption of Long Island, Papua New Guinea" (2020). Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v.395. (doi: )
  4. Koffman, B. G., Dowd, Eleanor G. Osterberg, Erich C. Ferris, David G. Hartman, Laura H. Wheatley, Sarah D. Kurbatov, Andrei V. Wong, Gifford J. Markle, Bradley R. Dunbar, Nelia W. Kreutz, Karl J. Yates, Martin (2017). "Rapid transport of ash and sulfate from the 2011 Puyehue-Cordo Caulle (Chile) eruption to West Antarctica" J. Geophys. Res. v122. (DOI: 10.1002/2017JD026893 )
  5. Hartman, Laura H. and Kurbatov, Andrei V. and Winski, Dominic A. and Cruz-Uribe, Alicia M. and Davies, Siwan M. and Dunbar, Nelia W. and Iverson, Nels A. and Aydin, Murat and Fegyveresi, John M. and Ferris, David G. and Fudge, T. J. and Osterberg, Erich C (2019). "Volcanic glass properties from 1459 C.E. volcanic event in South Pole ice core dismiss Kuwae caldera as a potential source" Scientific Reports, v.9. (doi:
  6. Lee, Mi Jung, Kyle, Philip R., Iverson, Nels A., Lee, Jong Ik, Han, Yeongcheol. (2019). "Rittmann volcano, Antarctica as the source of a widespread 1252 +/- 2 CE tephra layer in Antarctica ice" Earth and Planetary Science Letters , v.521 , p.169. (DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2019.06.002)
  7. Piva, S. B., Barker, S. J., Iverson, N. A., Winton, V. H. L., Bertler, N. A. N., Sigl, M., Wilson, C. J. N., Dunbar, N. W., Kurbatov, A. V., Carter, L., Charlier, B. L. A., & Newnham, R. M. (2023). Volcanic glass from the 1.8 ka Taupō eruption (New Zealand) detected in Antarctic ice at ~ 230 CE. Scientific Reports, 13(1). (doi:10.1038/s41598-023-42602-3)

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