Underestimated risks of recurrent long-range ash dispersal from northern Pacific Arc volcanoes

A. J. Bourne, P. M. Abbott, P. G. Albert, E. Cook, Nicholas Pearce, V. Ponomareva, A. Svensson, S. M. Davies

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Widespread ash dispersal poses a significant natural hazard to society, particularly in relation to disruption to aviation. Assessing the extent of the threat of far-travelled ash clouds on flight paths is substantially hindered by an incomplete volcanic history and an underestimation of the potential reach of distant eruptive centres. The risk of extensive ash clouds to aviation is thus poorly quantified. New evidence is presented of explosive Late Pleistocene eruptions in the Pacific Arc, currently undocumented in the proximal geological record, which dispersed ash up to 8000 km from source. Twelve microscopic ash deposits or cryptotephra, invisible to the naked eye, discovered within Greenland ice-cores, and ranging in age between 11.1 and 83.7 ka b2k, are compositionally matched to northern Pacific Arc sources including Japan, Kamchatka, Cascades and Alaska. Only two cryptotephra deposits are correlated to known high-magnitude eruptions (Towada-H, Japan, ca 15 ka BP and Mount St Helens Set M, ca 28 ka BP). For the remaining 10 deposits, there is no evidence of age- and compositionally-equivalent eruptive events in regional volcanic stratigraphies. This highlights the inherent problem of under-reporting eruptions and the dangers of underestimating the long-term risk of widespread ash dispersal for trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic flight routes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number29837
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2016


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